Educrats left behind

Bush was right about school reform and the educrats were wrong again, writes Debra Saunders in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Look at any reform that has boosted student performance — phonics, direct instruction, English immersion — and the chances are, the educrats were against it.

When parents revolted against whole language — which teaches children to read language as a whole, without teaching them to decode words — the educrats argued against a return to phonics, which they dismissed as “drill and kill.” When reformers pushed for tests that could show which curricula worked best, educrats denounced testing. If children steeped in phonics scored well on reading tests, they were not impressed; it is because the children were brainwashed, not literate. And if whole-language learners scored poorly, well, it was because they were so creative.

When Bush and company demanded accountability, they complained that standards would hurt poor children — as if undereducating poor and minority students didn’t hurt poor and minority kids.

“Educrats are scrambling to make sure that no credit goes to President Bush or his No Child Left Behind program,” Saunders writes. Standards and accountability started in the states — including Bush’s Texas — before being enshrined in federal law.

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Comments

  1. Richard Brandshaft says:

    Which brings us to the secular state. When it is actually interested, no major expense is involved, and the interests of big business don’t run counter to the interests of the people, the Bush administration can occasionally do something right.

    When it comes to AIDS education and prevention, the conservative sex police set policy. Groups in Brazil and Cambodia have refused US money. They are consider themselves more effective without the Christian strings than with the money.

    “It’s not as if you’re choosing between two neutral policy programs,” said Chris Beyrer of the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Brazil has good data to show that their approach works, and to ask them to change that, even if they get the additional money, to one for which there is no evidence, just because of moral squeamishness in the United States, is an extraordinary position to take.”

    That’s from:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/24/international/americas/24brazil.html?pagewanted=print

  2. Richard Brandshaft wrote:

    When it is actually interested, no major expense is involved, and the interests of big business don’t run counter to the interests of the people, the Bush administration can occasionally do something right.

    This may be a textbook example of praising by faint damn.

    First, there was a $2.1 billion additional appropriation as part of the NCLB bill. I’m sure Mike in Texas will dismiss that, as he would any amount less then the balance of the federal budget, as “no major expense” but on the basis of the results of the last couple of elections, most people won’t.

    Besides, any additional money is a misguided waste of public funds. The job is already being paid for, the NCLB is just an effort to see how well the job is being done. That ought to funded out of current budgets but this being politics, it isn’t.

    Second, the NCLB most assuredly does run counter to the interests of big business – the public education business, bigger then which there are damned few.

    Third, the NCLB represents a decades-long effort to bring accountability to the public education system. An effort which started in the individual states and has been largely blunted. It was also passed at a time when the decreasing political influence of the teacher’s unions, at least at the national level, wasn’t as certain.

    Nice effort to hijack the thread though.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    If the educrats’ actual goal were to ruin the education of American kids, what would they do differently?
    The answer to the question has to be something that would not instantly cause a public explosion. It would have to fit the frog-in-a-saucepan model.

    If people understood science better, it would be harder to fool them on environmental issues and the quarterly scare of the day. If they understood economics, it would be harder to fool them about a good many things democrats and liberals favor. Ditto history.

    Good writing is organized, which means your thinking must be organized. In fact, writing is a tool for improving thinking processes.

    If reading is easy and pleasant, more people will read beyond the headlines, think logically, and skeptically about the articles, apply what they know of science and economics to what they read in the MSM or are otherwise told by the powers-that-be.

    So, since we know this isn’t a deliberate state of affairs desired by the educrats, why does it look so much as if it were? What were they trying to accomplish that ends up looking so vile?

  4. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘the conservative sex police set policy.’

    Q: What’s wrong with the sex police?

    A: They’re always laying down on the job.

  5. If reading is easy and pleasant, more people will read beyond the headlines, think logically, and skeptically about the articles, apply what they know of science and economics to what they read in the MSM or are otherwise told by the powers-that-be.

    I can speak only for myself, but reading is easy and pleasant, and always has been.

  6. lindenen says:

    The real question is how or why events in our nation’s education establishment have conspired to produce every policy imaginable that will not educate children.

  7. Why? Because it is so easy to control (and fool) a nation of illiterate citizens. Liberals believe they have all of the answers to life’s woes, and want to be the ones to dole them out to everyone. Once the people learn to think critically, they begin to realize that the answer to life’s woes is in their own hands.

    Comes back to the old adage I remember…simplistic, but otherwise very true, I think…

    Liberals want to give us all a fish…conservatives want to teach us to fish…

  8. Jill wrote:

    Why? Because it is so easy to control (and fool) a nation of illiterate citizens.

    Uhhh, no.

    Never attribute to design what’s achievable by accident. Put’s you in the same league as the “black helicopter” crowd and they’re not so much scary as boring.

    Everything’s a plot.

    Everything’s under the control of mysterious, shadowy forces all of whom are featured in many books, a number of magazines and the occasional movie by Oliver Stone.

    The public education system is a bit of homegrown socialism. That tells you everything you need to know.

    Whatever its stated reason for existance, in this case educatin’ the young’uns, it’s priorities are always a mixture of politics, the convenience and comfort of it’s bureaucracy, and whatever ends it ostensibly exists to pursue.

    If you don’t think that’s true, go to a school board meeting sometime. The board will spend their time on a lot of things necessary to the function of an institution of education and practically no time on just how much education is occurring. That’s left up to the hired hands, the administration, and they have their own agenda only part of which is directly related to education.

    Given that sort of situation there isn’t any need to pursue the creation of a nation of illiterates, it’s inevitable.

  9. Richard Aubrey says:

    One reason for the continuing popularity of conspiracy theories is that there really are conspiracies.
    A good way to hide a conspiracy is to accuse someone who finds you out of being ready to believe in conspiracy theories. Since nobody’s supposed to do that–bad manners or something–you get away with your conspiracy.

    This is not to say that the current state of affairs is a matter of a conspiracy, only that it looks an awfully lot like a conspiracy.

    If it were a matter of accident, wouldn’t there accidentally be a good practice supported by the ‘crats? I mean, just at random?
    Consider: No teacher doing whole language can miss the fact that the kids can’t read very well.
    It must take more effort, mental and rationalizations and so forth, to insist to oneself and to concerned parents that whole language is the best technique.
    In effect, the ‘crats are working to fail when, at least in some cases, accident or laziness would lead some of them to promote phonics.
    If the kid could read, the parents wouldn’t be pestering you. What’s the solution?
    Keep doing whole language and taking crap from parents?

    Again. Not saying it is a conspiracy, but asking for somebody to tell me how it would be different if it were. And, implicitly, making the point that, even not being a conspiracy, it’s pretty bad.

  10. Richard Aubrey wrote:

    One reason for the continuing popularity of conspiracy theories is that there really are conspiracies.

    I don’t think that’s the attraction of conspiratorialism though. I think the attraction is that awareness of the conspiracies is evidence of insightfulness and intelligence. I let’s the conspiratorialists feel intelligent without doing anything particularly demanding.

    In the case of the public education system, there’s no need to posit a conspiracy. The common elements of the public education system impel or reward certain kinds of behavior. That creates the commonality of experience that can be mistaken for conspiracy but in fact is no more a conspiracy then the ducks flying south for the winter.

  11. Richard Aubrey says:

    I agree, Allen. I want to know why so many of the actions are all flying south–so to speak–or are actively counterproductive and, so far as normal people are concerned, sounterintuitive as well.
    Why don’t these commonalities promote highly effective and productive behavior.

    BTW, your idea about the attractiveness of conspiracy theories is right on. The ‘zoid looks, or thinks he looks, as if he knows more than the rest of us.
    The problem, as I say, is that from time to time there really are conspiracies.

  12. Richard Aubrey said:

    “I want to know why so many of the actions are all flying south–so to speak–or are actively counterproductive and, so far as normal people are concerned, sounterintuitive as well.
    Why don’t these commonalities promote highly effective and productive behavior.

    Entropy. And unions (entropy^2).