Amidst all of this talk about education this week, there’s an omission that drives me crazy. Yes, yes, the horrid state of American education is an American problem, and to that extent we’re all to blame in some abstract sort of way. But is there another major area of American public policy that is more screwed up and more completely the fault of one ideological side? Which party do the teachers’ unions support overwhelmingly? What is the ideological outlook of the bureaucrats at the Department of Education? Which party claims it “cares” more about education and demagogues any attempt by the other party to reform it? Who has controlled the large inner city school systems for generations? What is the ideological orientation of the ed school racket? Whose preferred teaching methods have been funded and whose have been ridiculed?
You know the answer to all of these questions. And yet to listen to the debate this week, you would think this is all a bipartisan problem because Republicans share the blame for refusing to fund schools enough.
There are two problems with this canard. 1) Bush and the GOP congress massively increased education spending and 2) the problems with our education system have almost nothing to do with how much money we spend.
We’re constantly told about all of these countries allegedly beating us in the classroom. Does anyone really think they’re doing better than us because they spend more? Really?
In the last few presidential elections I’ve heard more from Democrats — by far — complaining about leaky school roofs, cracking paint, and the need for more computers in the classroom than I’ve heard about the fact it’s easier to find and train a brontosaurus than it is to fire a horrible teacher. Do we really think China and India are spending 20-30K per pupil on their new crop of math whizzes?
In 2008-2009, the District of Columbia spent $1.3 billion dollars on 45,858 students. That is slightly less than the entire GDP of Belize. In 2007, 8 percent of DC eighth graders were able to do math at the eighth grade level. Clearly what’s needed is more money!
I’m sure not that many people follow the DC education controversy, but in a nutshell: Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his reelection bid in large part because he tried, through Michelle Rhee the education chancellor, to fix the schools over the objections of the teachers’ unions. Fenty’s opponent and the liberal black establishment turned it into a racial issue (surprise!) and now education reform in DC is seriously in doubt. And even people who agree with Rhee or agree that there’s a huge problem have bought into this idiotic argument that Rhee sort of had it coming because her “attitude” was wrong. Who gives a rat’s ass about the woman’s attitude if she’s getting results?
So here’s this front page story in the Washington Post today: “Obama Says DC Schools Not On Par With Sidwell.”
This is news not because anyone — anyone! — in Washington honestly disputes or doubts this. Sidwell is one of the best private schools in the city, if not the country. It’s news because liberal politicians so rarely say anything truthful about education and Obama’s admission will be recognized as rhetorical ammo for the school choice crowd (Obama caved to the teachers’ unions (surprise!) and let the DC voucher program expire).
And yet when you listen to these endless seminars and interviews on NBC and its various platforms, I never seem to hear Matt Lauer or David Gregory ask “Isn’t the education crisis a failure of liberalism?” After all, liberals insist all social problems can be reduced to root causes. Well, they’ve been in charge of the roots for generations and look at the mess they’ve made. Look at it.
Largely because of the Iraq war, Katrina and Bush’s unpopularity, a host of liberal intellectuals pronounced conservatism to be dead. The decrepit state of American education is a far more sweeping, profound and lasting indictment of the very heart of liberalism and yet the response from everyone is “Let’s give these guys another try!”