Friday, October 04, 2013

Common Core: Obama is right, Bush is to blame

The arrest of a parent attempting to ask questions of his elected school board members regarding the controversial Common Core curriculum — uniform curriculum across state lines that many believe dumbs down the U.S. education system and is being implemented in virtually every state in the nation — did more to educate people about this change than all the white papers that could have ever been written.

Subsequently, the Baltimore County, Maryland State Attorney chose not to prosecute the parent, but also defended the off duty police officer who arrested him as having done nothing wrong.

The questions that are being asked are how did we get to the point where parents who are interested in their children’s education are arrested, and when did the federal government decide to take the place of local and state school decision makers?

Petitioning our government is a fundamental freedom in America, yet Robert Smalls learned that in Maryland you can only petition the government by asking the questions that they want to answer, and you better submit them in writing and sit quietly hoping that yours is chosen.

After listening to a long presentation followed by hand-picked questions, Smalls stood up and attempted to ask something much meatier, and found himself in cuffs and off to jail.

Most surprisingly, the crowd reacted by memorializing the event on their cell phones with only a few verbalized objections.

And perhaps that is the answer to how this could happen here.  The people let it happen.

The question of how the federal government, which is funding states which implement Common Core, got so heavily involved in what used to be local elected school board prerogatives in conjunction with parents, you can pull a line out of Obama’s speeches and blame it on Bush.

Republican rhetoric surrounding the federalization of education policy starkly changed from a demand to eliminate the Department of Education to ensuring the “No Child was Left Behind” when President George W. Bush took office.

His signature initiative passed with the support and direction of Senator Edward Kennedy, who played a heavy role in creating the law.  The change of direction from wanting to rid the federal government of a primary role in education to setting national testing standards and forcing local schools to meet them was a cataclysmic shift away from the traditional position of the Republican Party on the issue.

As localities complained about the well-intentioned “No Child Left Behind” law, it wasn’t a Democrat president shoving it down their throats, it was a “limited government, local control” Republican.

Naturally, when the Obama Administration was presented with the opportunity to “fix” the Bush/Kennedy law by providing funds for the implementation of the new Common Core curriculum, they took it, under the guise of the catchy “race to the top” slogan.

Incredibly, the “race to the top” has been criticized as nothing less than planned mediocrity, as math standards are lessened to make it difficult for the average high achieving high schooler to take Calculus, and English language standards have been turned on their head.

Common Core became possible the moment Republicans abandoned the principle of locally determined education standards, which is an important lesson to remember as we watch today’s Congress grapple with Obamacare funding.

Those Republicans who urge that the decision be delayed today will be proposing “fixes” to the law tomorrow.

Once Republicans accept the underlying premise that the federal government has any business implementing Obamacare at all, the party of limited government transforms into the party of “trust us, we can make this work” and Democrats move on to start agitating for a single payer Canadian style system.

And it is these type of compromises that have gotten us where we are today.


Escaping 'Government' Schools

John Stossel

People say public schools are "one of the best parts of America". I believed that. Then I started reporting on them.

Now I know that public school -- government school is a better name -- is one of the worst parts of America. It's a stultified government monopoly. It never improves.

Most services improve. They get faster, better, cheaper. But not government monopolies. Government schools are rigid, boring, expensive and more segregated than private schools.

I call them "government" instead of "public" schools because not much is "public" about them. Members of the public don't get to pick their kids' schools, teachers, curriculum or cost.

By contrast, supermarkets are "private" yet open to everyone. You can stroll in 24 hours a day. Just try that with your kid's public school. You might be arrested.

Now a school choice movement has given government schools a sliver of competition. Private schools, charter schools, vouchers, education tax credits and the Web offer competition. Not all the alternatives work, but with competition, bad alternatives die and good ones grow.

This will help all kids.

But so far, the alternatives reach only a small number of kids. Unions and bureaucrats don't want competition, and they use their political clout to stifle it. But gradually, they're losing.

After fighting homeschooling for years, they've stopped trying to ban it, and today homeschoolers fare better on tests and college admission. So, some in the government monopoly claim that if your kids are homeschooled, they will not be properly socialized (in the sense of interacting with peers, that is, not in the sense of belonging to government).

But homeschooled kids participate in all sorts of social events with other homeschooling families -- plus theater, ballet, karate and other classes that most kids get and that some only wish they did.

Homeschoolers do just fine. Somehow, without government control, they prosper.

Defenders of government schools often claim their schools are what create the American "melting pot." Different races, ethnic groups and income levels mix together in government-funded schools.

Bunk. If it was ever true, it isn't now.

University of Arkansas education professor Jay Greene examined school classrooms and found that public schools were more likely to be almost entirely white or entirely minority.

He also looked at who sat with whom in school lunchrooms. At private schools, students of different races were more likely to sit together.

We don't do poor kids any favors by keeping them trapped in the poorly run government system. If you really care about "the public," you should let people go where they get the best service.

When government gets bad results -- high dropout rates, poor test scores -- its defenders say schools need more money. But spending per student has tripled. There are more computers, teachers, social workers, reading specialists, principals, assistant principals, etc. But test scores haven't improved.

Unpredictable things happen when you leave people free to experiment, and competition produces better results than one tired monopoly.

A bizarre column in Slate recently, arguing that school choice might drain resources away from government schools, was titled, "If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person".

The columnist wrote, "If every single parent sent every single child to public school, public schools would improve ... It could take generations. Your children and grandchildren might get mediocre educations in the meantime, but it will be worth it, for the eventual common good."

This is how leftists think. Everyone must jump into the government pot. Even if it is mediocre (or worse), we're all in this together. Otherwise, the rich will get all the goods, and the poor will suffer.

Don't they notice that cellphones, cars and air conditioning keep improving yet "poor" people are able to buy them? No.

They don't understand that market competition helps everyone, especially the poor.

I think those who want to force a single-government solution on everyone are just confused -- but if I were as judgmental as that Slate columnist, I'd be tempted to conclude that they're bad people.


'Dumb down your CV or bosses will think you are too qualified': What British job centre adviser told furious graduate

After years of hard work, Liza Fitzpatrick was proud to put her degree on her CV.  So she was understandably devastated when, she claims, a job centre adviser told her to take it off – because it made her ‘overqualified’ for some roles.

Miss Fitzpatrick, 36, graduated from the University of Hull in July last year, and has since been unable to find a job despite applying for more than 200 positions.

She says she was reduced to tears after one of the Government’s welfare-to-work advisers ‘bullied’ her into changing her CV, claiming she needed to make it more basic.

The adviser, who she sees as a condition of claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, ‘threatened to sanction’ her if she did not remove her 2:2 BA Honours degree in social and community care work within three days.

Miss Fitzpatrick claims the employment adviser, who she describes as in his mid-50s, told her that he used to be an employer and he would not have taken her on because she was too qualified.

‘They’ve told me I have to dumb down my CV but I’ve studied hard for this,’ she said.  ‘I’d take any job to be able to stop signing on. He bullied me into changing something I was really proud of and threatened that my benefits could be taken away if I did not do as he told me.’

She added: ‘By removing my degree, I would leave a five-year gap on my CV [she studied part of her degree part-time], which I thought would cause me more problems.’

The former care assistant, from Hull, would like to find a job in support work, for example as a probation officer or social worker.

But she has also been applying for jobs at supermarkets and high street shops.

She also volunteers at  a Fair Trade shop to gain retail experience and helps out at North Hull Women’s Centre, a charity that gives women counselling and support.

But she claims her employment adviser said her volunteering was ‘irrelevant’ in terms of finding work.

Her long-term partner, 39-year-old Sean Hardy, later telephoned the Work Solutions job centre.  Mr Hardy, who works in the building trade, said the manager insisted it was not the centre’s policy to advise job-seekers to remove qualifications.

But Work Solutions said that the career aspirations of its customers are not always ‘realistic’ in the current labour market.  In a statement, it said: ‘If customers are struggling to gain employment in their chosen field, we would help them look at other realistic opportunities.  'This can mean re-looking at the make-up of a CV and the labour market it’s aimed at.’

It insisted, however, that this would only be a suggestion, adding: ‘Qualifications and degrees are achievements to be very proud of and we would never request their removal from a CV but would recommend that a CV is focused clearly towards the vacancy or industry sector that a candidate is applying for.’

Labour’s Karl Turner, MP for Hull East, said: ‘It is very worrying that unemployed graduates in Hull are being advised to remove qualifications in an attempt to secure any type of employment.  ‘It is clear that the bigger issue here is the lack of suitable graduate jobs in the city.’


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