If you wonder why things won’t change whether Republicans (as we know them) or Democrats are in charge, consider the following, quoted from Associated Press and Newsmax.com (on 11-20-14):
Responding to a national backlash over Common Core education standards, potential 2016 presidential candidate Jeb Bush said Thursday that the set of state benchmarks should be “the new minimum” for America’s classrooms.
“For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher, be bolder, raise standards and ask more of our students and the system,” Bush said.
In the very same news story, you’ll find the following:
On Thursday, Bush extended an olive branch as he preached a conservative message of limited government, saying states and local communities should have the flexibility to design their own programs with federal dollars.
Bush is saying two completely contradictory things. On the one side, he’s recommending that we stick with the inept and ideologically biased one-size-fits-all, command-and-control/Communist-style approach to education known as Common Core. He surrenders the premise (to leftist “progressive” Democrats) that the nationalized approach to education is setting high standards, and instead suggests we continue along those lines with even tougher standards.
Now, who can argue against “tough” standards for education, at least if “tough” means effective and rational? The problem here is that Jeb Bush is supposed to be a limited government conservative. Limited government conservatives supposedly believe that government should get the hell out of the business of education, or at least limit its involvement relative to the status quo. Bush is suggesting just the opposite.
In the same speech, and in almost the same breath, Bush is supporting the expansion of federal control over all of education as we know it — the equivalent of Obamacare applied to something as precious, personal and as individual as the human need to learn; and he’s claiming that the government’s role in education should be left to local authorities and states.
You can’t have it both ways, Jeb. Either the federal government controls the whole thing, or it doesn’t.
If the federal government were to get out of education, there are basically one of two alternatives. One, leave public education to local and state authorities. Shut down the federal Department of Education, remove federal subsidies for education from the budget, and leave it to state and local governments to finance and work public education out. Two, privatize education completely. No tax dollars for education, period. Leave it to private sources — charity/not-for-profit/for-profit — to compete in the private marketplace. Leave parents free to pursue home schooling or private tutoring, if that suits their purposes.
Granted, the privatized approach to education is probably too much for most people, including most Republicans. But Republicans at least used to favor the localized public school approach. For an advocate of totally privatized schooling such as myself, that could at least serve as a transitional step towards ridding ourselves of the federal behemoth now serving as the gigantic equivalent of Obamacare in education. Ask just about any public school teacher (of any political persuasion) what’s happening in public schools today, and they’ll tell you that schools are teaching towards the tests. It’s not about education so much as making sure those test scores are high so the federal dollars keep coming in. The end justifies the means, and the means are those federal dollars (which never seem to be enough.) Is this what people consider so superior to a free market approach where at least parents have choices about how or where to educate their kids?
If Jeb Bush came out in favor of retaining the federalized approach, then he’d be no different from any Obama or Hillary Clinton Democrat. In fact, that’s exactly what he’s doing by supporting the expansion of Common Core “principles” to be imposed on the population. And yet he turns around and expects us to believe that he’s really in favor of local public schools rather than nationalized ones.
If Bush really believes this, then he’s truly as stupid as his opponents in the media-academic establishment will make him out to be. If he doesn’t believe it, and he expects supporters in the Republican primaries to buy it, then he assumes his potential supporters are as stupid as his opponents will make him out to be.
Lost in all of this political nonsense is the fact that education is a profoundly personal and precious human resource. Whenever I argue in favor of a totally private market for education, with no government funding or regulation whatsoever, I’m told, “You can’t do that. Education is too important.” My response is that the government must get out of education precisely because it is so important.
The proper principles for educating young minds have yet to be fully articulated. Maria Montessori (a brilliant and practical theoretician of education) came close, but a lot of work still needs to be done — both in theory and in practice — to discover how best to stimulate young minds to become the rational, objective and independent thinkers all human beings must be in order to develop into self-responsible and self-actualizing individuals. Of course, when you’re honest about it, government by its nature (regardless of which party runs it) is not in favor of “independent and self-actualizing” thinkers; government wants subservient wards of the state, good citizen-taxpayers, and that’s precisely what government schools (regardless of what some intend) end up turning into, in the end. Case in point: Look at what public schools are producing in today’s society, regardless of the intentions or capabilities of individual educators. Everybody knows public schools suck; yet the only solution offered by the Bushes, Obamas and Clintons of the world is to throw billions of more dollars at them — so they can suck even more.
Does anyone seriously think the federal government — especially the federal government as we know it, “run” by this endless parade of intellectual court jesters of Bushes, Clintons and Obamas — has the capacity to really solve this problem? Or would it be better left to the innovation, ingenuity and self-responsibility of the free market? We trust the free market to develop, modify and continuously tweak our computers, our cell phones, our Netflix television programs, our hamburger choices, our cereal brands and our style of clothing — but we don’t allow it to function for something as profound and as significant as education? Go figure.
The Republicans, as represented by these same old stale hacks as Jeb Bush, are indeed the stupid party. They seem to think that they can win elections by conceding the arguments to their opponents and putting a less appealing, less articulate and less “cool” face on their opponents’ very same policies. Obama has successfully pushed the country and the government in the direction of the hard core, Marxist socialist left. Now politicians like Jeb Bush feel compelled to play “catch up.” Voters will sense this, and most likely opt for the real deal — Hillary Clinton.
The established Republicrat Bush-Clinton-Obama attitude and policy is nothing more than, “If it’s not working, throw more money at it. And if it fails even more, throw even more money at it.”
On education as on so many other matters, we need a second party — not a third party, but a second — to offer a genuinely and sincerely opposite alternative. Let the better ideas win; but for goodness’ sake, please give us two sets of ideas, not the same ones wrapped up in different versions of the same “throw-more-money-at-the-teachers’-unions” package.
In the area of education, that would mean not rearranging the intellectual chairs on the educational Titanic to replace “Common Core A” with “Common Core B.” It would mean getting government out of education altogether, and freeing the human mind — and in the process, the human spirit — from all that currently restrains it in this most profoundly important and sacred of human endeavors: education.