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Quality education trumps quantity

Posted By Linda Bowles On 12/14/1999 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

The archives are full to overflowing with evidence that government schools are failing to teach millions of children how to read, write and do simple arithmetic. Columnists, educators and politicians struggle to get the point across that government schools are dumping millions of dumbbells upon our society. They make the case over and over again, apparently convinced that for some reason, the message is not being heard, and that the danger to our society of endemic ignorance is not fully comprehended.

However, the message has been heard. Education is the No. 1 issue in America today. There are plenty of solutions being advanced. The problem is that most of them treat symptoms, leaving root causes undisturbed.

Nothing illustrates this better than Bill Clinton’s solution for the inability of third-grade students to read. He asked for thousands of volunteers to enter the classrooms and do remedial teaching. He said nothing about replacing the incompetent first- and second-grade teachers who obviously don’t know how to teach. He was silent on the insidious policy of hiring teachers for reasons that have nothing to do with competence. He called for extending government school education another two years, as though that is an answer to 12 years of incompetent teaching.

Recently, Bill Clinton and his understudy, Algore, won a “victory” for education by getting approval for money to hire 100,000 new teachers. The idea, of course, is to improve teacher performance by reducing class size. Everyone in sight applauded this breakthrough. At last, we were getting a grand-scale solution to a pernicious problem.

Unfortunately, nobody bothered to look at what happened when California launched a similar, multibillion-dollar program. Like most states, California has a shortage of qualified teachers. Mandated reduction of classroom size opened up jobs in affluent neighborhoods, and good teachers gravitated to them. Emergency teaching licenses were issued to 28,500 unqualified teachers, who took less desirable jobs in ghetto schools.

Nanette Asimov, staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, reported the unintended consequence as follows: “California’s lowest-scoring students are five times more likely than high-scoring children to be placed in classrooms with under-qualified teachers, making it that much harder for them to catch up academically …”

In the meanwhile, the performance gap on college-entrance exams between white students and minorities widened this year in California. And the seeds for further widening have been planted by politicians too cowardly to face the real problem with education in government schools.

The real problem is the quality of teachers, not the quantity of them. Schools of education draw their students from the lowest performers in the college population. Not the best and the brightest, but the worst and the dullest, wind up as administrators and teachers in government schools. There are, of course, many exceptions to the rule, but there are tons of studies and documentation that confirm that education students are drawn from the bottom of the barrel and placed in classrooms where they are rarely held accountable.

How many teachers have been fired because they do not know how to teach our children how to read? How many have been disciplined because high-school graduates do not have a clue what the Constitution says, how their government works, or what capitalism is all about? How many pay raises, promotions and increases in benefits to teachers and administrators have been withheld or reduced based upon a failure to perform?

The reason our schools do not improve is obvious: They are run by a government-controlled monopoly that spawns, protects and rewards bad management and mediocrity. It is an insidious, self-serving system that survives and thrives because education labor unions pay off politicians for protecting them from accountability, competition and reform. The National Education Association is the most selfish and destructive special interest in America.

We made a great, perhaps fatal mistake by allowing government to take control of education. It should have been foreseeable that, sooner or later, the opportunity to shape and mold the thinking of children to conform with political agendas and social causes would be irresistible. We should not be surprised that while our children are not being educated, they are being indoctrinated. While they are not accumulating knowledge, they are accumulating attitudes. They are being instilled with anti-constitutional, big-government values, and anti-religious, heathen mind-sets.

None other than Adolf Hitler explained how it works. He put it this way in a discussion of education in the Third Reich: “When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side,’ I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to us already. … What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time, they will know nothing else but this new community.’”


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