We’ve got so many problems in our country today, it’s hard to say which ones are most important. I’m reminded of the vaudeville performer who tries to keep eight or 10 plates spinning on spindly, wobbly sticks. He rushes to steady one about to fall – and while he gets that one spinning again, he sees two others also about to fall. The audience repeatedly holds its breath, expecting any minute for several plates to fall, or all of them. If the performer is lucky, or very good, he’ll keep all the plates spinning and the audience entertained for quite a while.
Well, we’re more than the audience. We’re the plate spinners! We’re the citizens – you know, “We the People” – the folks who’re supposed to be running this show called America. We’re the ones paying for everything, the ones who will win if the show goes right, but will suffer terribly if it doesn’t.
We’re the descendants of the men who wrote our Constitution, the ones our Declaration of Independence says are “created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights … among these life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
We’re the ones for whom a republic was formed, and a system of self-government that allowed us to elect representatives to make rules and regulations that a majority of us approved. For more than 200 years, this system has worked wonderfully. America has become the envy of the world and has benefited most of the other countries in material ways. And it’s been universally recognized that our incredible progress and prosperity came about because of the system of limited government our forefathers set in place.
Why would anybody mess with that system? If it’s the best the world has ever known, who would want to “fundamentally transform it”?
Sadly, and ominously, there are a surprising number of people who are actually citizens of this country who aren’t happy with it. They have felt for 100 years that it should be overhauled and turned into something our founders wouldn’t recognize. They don’t have much regard for us, just other citizens; they feel they should be running everything, and that the government should do just that – govern. Rule. Dictate. Control.
And they want to be the government.
The current administration is obviously, even blatantly, guided by this mindset. By his own account, and from a perusal of his mentors and the groups with whom he’s associated throughout his college and political careers, our president has long believed that the Constitution is flawed, inadequate and increasingly irrelevant to his ideas of governance. Since his first days in office, he has embarked on a relentless campaign to ram his economic and social programs through the Democrat-controlled Congress and force them on the bewildered and increasing angry populace. While his poll numbers continue to sink, he presses on, determined to fashion a government that controls and dictates virtually everything in our lives.
I said it’s hard to know which of the problems is most important, most urgent. But for me, it’s what’s happening in education. And it’s been happening for years now, getting worse every day.
It’s not just that so many of our kids are graduating from high school (if they even do) with substandard knowledge and learning skills, compared to students in so many other countries. It’s not just that they may not go on to college or learn the new technologies America needs to keep its place in the world. It’s that they’re deliberately not being taught the history of this country and the principles upon which it was founded.
I originally intended to be a high-school English teacher, and have always admired those teachers, like the ones I had, who give themselves diligently and responsibly to inculcating their students with healthy knowledge and appreciation for America and its historic standards, teachers who evidenced a reverent respect for its traditions. Teachers who taught the courses in depth, objectively, demanding good work and proof of learning from the students – all the while encouraging individual initiative, giving the best grades to the best students.
Now President Obama’s appointee, Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is applying the same techniques to the realm of education that the other non-constitutionally appointed “czars” are to their designated areas of dominance. As reported by the Foundation Endowment, who attended a presentation by Secretary Duncan to 200 high-school students brought to Washington by “The Close up Foundation,” Mr. Duncan laid out his current agenda – which should trouble every American.
Though many question the very existence of the Department of Education, believing it’s not the responsibility of government to rule over our children’s learning at all – Duncan proposes a $3.5 billion increase in education spending (out of our tattered pockets): $100 million more for extracurricular/rounded education activities, $36 billion more into Pell Grants, $60 billion out of the so-called stimulus plan into college education, $2 billion for community colleges and $100 million to help students who have advanced beyond high-school courses to attend college-level courses.
This probably sounded wonderful to the assembled students, though they have no idea where all those billions will come from. And they didn’t realize that what Duncan is actively preparing for America is what is being called “common core state standards” – a de facto national curriculum. This would mandate all students be taught the identical things, created and dictated by the NEA, the very powerful “progressive” teachers union. A cookie-cutter approach to education that undercuts and virtually prohibits teachers’ initiative and creativity, this will have the potential to permanently erase American tradition.
And just to make sure his plan succeeds, Mr. Duncan is doling out $4 billion of borrowed stimulus money to the states whose governors and teachers unions commit to these new federal standards. He calls his plan “Race to the Top,” and it’s becoming clear that unless states knuckle under to a government-controlled education system, they’ll not get their share of the taxpayers’ money.
I hope you’ll contact the Foundation Endowment and find out how you can help turn this around. For me, it’s priority No. 1, the spinning plate most likely to bring failure for our balancing act. Let our children’s minds be corrupted and America is finished.