Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The failure of federal intervention in education

Paul Weyrich explains why proposed changes to the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), while good in theory, will ultimately fail.
Most of these proposed new regulations are, in theory, good ideas. The problem is that education was and will remain a local issue in spite of the Federal Government's attempts to micromanage every elementary and secondary school in the country. The variety and quantity of student and teacher needs are too numerous for the Federal Government adequately to address them. In fact, these proposals do little more than shuffle students through a monotonous, homogenous factory. There is no creativity; no focus upon improving the quality of local curricula and teaching; no flexibility for students whose interests may be as diverse as automobile mechanics, ancient history, biology, music or agriculture; and no ability to adapt to the needs of local communities. In short, everything valuable about local control of education is missing. It is what is missing, not what is included, that is necessary to improve American education.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all bureaucratic education plan, what we need are higher standards in the classroom, meaningful discipline, a return to rigorous curricula (including proper grammar instruction, the study of foreign languages and a return to primary sources in history rather than watered-down textbooks), better teachers, more parental and community involvement and greater flexibility to address local needs. These would begin the process of reforming American education. As it stands, it is highly unlikely that that expectations saddled to NCLB will be fulfilled.
The attempt to micromanage education (or most anything) from Washington has always been a non-starter to me. It simply makes no sense to have a small group of politicians whose main goal is to get reelected make policy for a country of 300 million across vastly different demographic, economic, and cultural conditions.

Sadly, I disagree with Weyrich when he says, "The problem is that education was and will remain a local issue in spite of the Federal Government's attempts to micromanage every elementary and secondary school in the country."

Education (and most everything) is increasingly becoming federally managed, and though this is extremely unwise, I see this trend continuing indefinitely. More federal money will be spent, and hence more federal authority demanded.

In spite of all evidence to the contrary, the Left has succeeded in convincing Americans that Big Brother is the solution to everything. When these "solutions" inevitably fail, it's always because we didn't spend enough money on them. The Left seeks equal outcome instead of equal opportunity, and, unfortunately, the Big Government approach delivers, but not in a good way. The end result, as we continue to see in education, is a gravitation toward mediocrity; yes, we are nudging our schools toward equal education for all--equally poor education for all. And no amount of money or increase in federal oversight is going to be enough.

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