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Bold New Vision of the Same Old Thing

Bush's Education Program Repeats Past Failures

© Marshall Fritz
s January 30, 2001



Every year, Lucy would convince Charlie Brown that this time she’d let him kick the football. After a bit of cajoling, good ol’ Charlie Brown would try again and “AAARGH!!”, our hero lies flat on his back.


So it is with “education reform.” The politician says once again, “Trust me. This time we’re going to get it right!”


President George W. Bush has announced his own Bold New Vision of the Same Old Thing. Will American educators and populace once again be as gulled as Charlie Brown? While there is a difference in intent (Lucy was deliberately misleading), the result is the same—just AAARGH!!


The president recognizes intent is not the problem. On page 18 of his “No Child Left Behind” education plan, Bush declares, “Systems are often resistant to change — no matter how good the intentions of those who lead them.”


To Golden Gate University economics professor Joseph Fuhrig, Bush’s plan is no different than Gorbachev’s Perestroika, “just another game attempt to fine tune socialism.” Socialism? Our schools??


Look in your Webster’s dictionary: “Socialism—governmental ownership and administration of the means of production.”  Today, schools are owned and administrated by Federal, State and Local governments.  If you want to be upset with anybody, how about the politicians and educators who hide “school socialism?”


Bush’s plan is a messy knot of contradictions, contradictions that will defeat his plan just as they did his father’s “America 2000” and Clinton’s “Goals 2000.”


The most glaring contradiction is trying to please both those who want central control and those who want local control. For instance, under the subheading “New State and Local Flexibility Options,” we find this gem is offered to all who like warm feelings and have forgotten the failed five-year plans of the Soviet Union:  “…charter states and districts would be freed from categorical program requirements in return for submitting a five-year performance agreement to the Secretary of Education and being subject to especially rigorous standards of accountability.” This is like saying that local districts would be free to emphasize basketball, softball, field hockey, ice hockey, water polo, diving, or dance in return for being subject to especially rigorous touchdown standards.


A second contradiction is between Bush’s push for increasing funding to improve the overall system, while reducing funding as punishment for the weakest schools. This goes beyond fuzzy logic into anti-logic.


A third contradiction is asserting that all children can meet high standards. It would be much easier to see the fallacy of high standards for all if they had proposed such nonsense for sports, music, or dance: All children will be able to run a marathon in less than four hours, play The Sabre Dance at Carnegie Hall, and dance the lead in the Nutcracker.


But worse than the contradictions is the premise underlying the plan: Government—indeed, the federal government—is responsible for educating children.


The idea that government should be the controlling party on education entered the American soul about 70 years after the American Revolution. Thus began the “entitlement” notion that has spread from education to so many aspects of American life that we have transgendered Uncle Sam into a nanny. This virus spreads by coating itself in sweet words such as “every child has a right to an education.” But like children who do not examine the consequences of their acts, we grownups fail to complete the sentence with the rest of the story: “… with tax dollars taken from the neighbors.” Put this way, one begins to see that this “right” is really just a cover-up for taking the neighbor’s money for our children’s tuition. We seem to have forgotten “Thou shall not covet.”


Like President Bush, I want better education for every child in America. The difference is that experience has proven to me this cannot come from government schools. The solution is to expel government from the classroom. That’s right, we need the separation of school and state. We don’t have state, local, or federal government operate our churches, newspapers, or farms. The result is religious harmony, a free press, and surplus food that we send to countries where the government does run the farms.


All Americans, including President Bush, need to think more deeply about the question, “Who should make the final decisions about education, the child’s parents or the government?” Many thoughtful people are discovering that separation of school and state is exactly the common sense solution whose logic of liberty has delivered countless blessings in so many areas of American life. You may be closer to this view than you think—find out by taking the “World’s Shortest Education Survey(TM).”


Every year when it was time for Charlie Brown to kick the football, a nation ached for him to say at last “Not this time, Lucy.” Until we re-examine our underlying premise of who is responsible for children’s education—parents or government—we will continue playing Charlie Brown to a Bush or a Clinton, trusting that “this time” their five-year plan will work.


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Updated January 4, 2008


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