It’s out there for all to know. The new president is in favor of choice! Yes, he is and his plan is on the record.

President Bush is in favor of choice for men and women alike — choice to make the lives of children better.

Hah! Surprised you didn’t I? You thought I was talking about abortion. That’s the trouble today, say the word “choice” and flames start coming out of people’s ears. But choice has other connotations, and in this instance, we’re talking about parents and how their children are prepared for the future.

As it stands now, the majority of families send their children to public schools. Public, because they’re paid for with billions and billions of tax dollars. Some derisively call them government schools, and in a sense they’re correct. The law (government) requires that children be educated; so, for most families, the public school is the place to accomplish that task.

It may be the place education is supposed to take place but something has happened over the last 30 years. Actually, what’s happened is that something has not happened. Education, for instance.

Oh, the kids are going to school all right, but they’re not being educated. Not only has the curriculum been dumbed down, but, too often, children are allowed to graduate without even the most basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills.

What a remarkable juxtaposition on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle the morning after President Bush presented his education plan.

One article detailed the Bush plan and gave an overview of some of the congressional and teachers’ union reaction to it.

Next to that article was another, which told California taxpayers that 62 percent of the incoming freshmen in the 22-campus California State University system need remedial English or math!

The article went on to report that the system will be expelling students who don’t pass remedial courses by the end of their freshman year.

Do you realize what that really means? It means that students who entered college with at least a B average, and who were in the top third of their graduating class, can’t do basic English or math!

That’s not an indictment of the colleges; it’s an indictment of the entire K-12 system! It’s an indictment of the administrations, the school boards, the teachers, the unions, the curricula, the books, the parents and the politicians too.

It’s not just a California problem. The article noted that a report by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation in 1998 showed that 80 percent of public and 60 percent of private four-year universities provided remedial classes.

What on earth is going on? We pay billions in taxes to fund the schools, people donate and raise money in their communities for all kinds of school needs, teachers donate their own money for classroom materials and our kids still aren’t learning. Every time we turn around we’re told that more money is the answer.

Sorry, fellas. That just doesn’t hack it anymore. There is simply no excuse for a high-school graduate who, by means of grades and class rank, qualifies to enter college and still needs to take classes in basic math and English.

It’s time to point some fingers; it’s time for the grown-ups to stand up and take responsibility. A teacher is supposed to teach — content, skills, a work-ethic — the result is measured by testing. If the student meets the standards, then the student is educated. If not, then the teacher and the system have failed.

Money alone does not result in education. We can argue about that until the cows come home but the facts are clear. When employers say that the young people they hire can’t handle basic skills, something is wrong. When college students can’t spell or calculate, something is wrong. When colleges and state programs spend more millions on top of the basic millions to “help” poor performing schools, something is wrong.

President George W. Bush sees what’s wrong and has proposed some remedies. He wants standards and annual testing in basic skills. He wants accountability from schools that they are doing the job. He wants a flat guarantee that all children can read by the third grade.

And he wants choice! Yes, indeed. He wants parents to be able to get their kids out of terrible schools and choose a better place for them. It’s hard to imagine anyone objecting to that — enabling kids trapped in a terrible system to get out and get educated. Giving parents that freedom will give their children something no one can ever take from them — a decent education.

An educated person is truly free; an uneducated person is a prisoner of the system and forever dependent on it. You might call it “new millennium slavery” and there is simply no excuse for it. Mr. Bush has a recipe for freedom; it will be interesting to see who fights him and how they try to rationalize it. But no matter what they say, the issue is children, their lives and their futures. We must make the right choice. Parents must have the right to choose.

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