Futile acronyms

Federal programs are rich in acronyms, weak on effectiveness, writes Cato’s Andrew Coulson on Pajamas Media.

President Bush signed the bipartisan America COMPETES act on August 9th, with the acronymic goal of Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science. Come September, Congress will debate reauthorization of the 5-year-old No Child Left Behind act, or NCLB, which aimed to improve math and reading performance. But before our federal representatives serve up another acronym-laden education program, Americans might want to signal for the waiter, because there’s a fly in Washington’s alphabet soup: these programs will not, indeed cannot, fix our schools.

. . . If Americans want their children genuinely prepared to compete in the world economy, they will have to demand that their schools – public and private – be forced to compete on a free and level playing field for the privilege of serving them. And they would be wise to stay away from the alphabet soup.

Coulson’s approach to NCLB is “End It Don’t Mend It.”

About Joanne


  1. Richard Cook says:

    One of the problem is that there is no grading method of parents. That is a tool that is really lacking. If the parents do not care the teacher will not be able to make headway in teaching. We see it time and time again. Why are we suprised?

  2. And yet, when parents do care and want to do everything in their power to ensure their children get a great education, they are called elitist or privileged. These are the parents in the “good” suburban school areas that are used to highlight the disparities and inequalities with the less affluent and less successful schools. Their children are the ones accused of artificially raising the test scores of magnate and charter schools in comparison with the schools they have abandoned. In the public schools, these parents have trouble getting gifted and accelerated classes for their higher performing kids because more attention is paid to the lower performing students.

    When the children of highly motivated parents perform well, it’s assumed to be because of societal advantages that favor them while at the same time creating barriers for the lower performing students.

  3. I don’t like NCLB on federalism grounds, but I support it on practical grounds. Anyone who can say with a straight face that we’re doing a worse job teaching now than in the 1990s (just prior to NCLB) is operating on a different plane of existence than most of the rest of us.

  4. I’ll say it Darren, loud and clear, and have been saying it. Schools today are nothing but multple choice test prep facilities.

  5. Mtheads: I’ve heard of magnet schools before, but this is the first I’ve heard of a magnate school. Just how early can you start teaching future CEO’s how to manage corporations?

  6. markm

    oops, I meant magnet. See what spell check gets ya? Though magnate magnet schools might be a hit.

  7. Richard Brandshaft says:

    FLASH! Cato Institute finds government ineffective! Astounding.

    Seriously, if the Cato Institute were to concede that a government program worked, that would be news. But anti-government opinions from the Cato institute are as informative as Sarah Brady (or the National Rifle Association) on self-defense with guns. After a certain number of repetitions, hearing an institution’s world view yet again doesn’t teach you anything.

  8. A “FLASH!” for monsieur Brandshaft:

    The 10 hotlinks in my article are to what we in the business call “facts.” When opinions are rationally derived from facts, they are called “conclusions.”

    If you take the time to reflect on the facts and conclusions I presented, you may, to your surprise, learn something.