A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

May 17, 2007

GOP Debate was not about Education – A Rejoinder

Maggie’s Notebook and MoreWhat.com crossposted about the GOP debate and the Federal role in education. I will offer commentary and a Rejoinder.

It is impractical to expect the federal government to solve the education problem in this country. The press release authors could only be addressing NCLB or federal funding, grants and other money related issues as well as any regulations that affect education. And money at the federal level is not what will solve the education problems in this country. At least not the ones about how well educated are children become.

While there is merit into this statement, a countering view would be that the problem is so large, so pervasive, and so institutionally driven by other factors, particularly by forces of race and wealth, that there is “de facto” segregation in our public school system that is not in the interests of local schools to address. This “de facto” segreation offers a two tiered level of opportunity and the only agency that can bring equity to this failed system are the Feds.

Money alone does not educate children. With the exception of disasters or districts that have been poorly managed or somehow deprived of money for infrastructure, money is not what will solve the problem. Education is the process of teaching children how to function successfully throughout their lives. That requires teachers who can teach. Students who can learn. And a support group including but not limited to, a school district, school board, schools with the necessary amenities as well as parents and/or other adults to guide them successfully through the process.

While there is also truth in these statements, they are not at all the full truth, and in fact are much more effective as lies by mixing in a grain of truth. To say that money does not matter is folly. The truth is that funds available, and 75% of funds available to a public school are generated by the local tax base, provide the districts with the ability to support budgets which may include more equipment, better pay for staff members, the ability to attract higher quality teachers and retain them, the ability to have facilities which offer signficant advantages to the students of a particular school. When a person is shopping for a house, one of the first questions that are likely to be asked are the quality of the schools. Schools which have reputations of high academic achievement, typically have a history of offering more services to students who may be designated “at risk”, enjoy bases of commercial and industrial wealth which lower the effective tax rate for the residents of such communities. In 2004 the amount of dollars spent by the United States toward education was less than 1% of the money spent by the Nintendo Game Company on research and development. Is there any wonder why there have been revolutions in the gaming industry, and lackluster change in the environmental and hygeine factors concerning public education? In reality, while money alone doesn’t educate children, try doing so without it.

If the systems, groups and individuals at the state and local level are functioning properly, the federal government has little to do but provide funding and assist in defining universal goals and standards that enhance scholastic achievement and its benefits.

This statement is totally true. However, the state and local systems do not function favorably. It was found by the courts recently that in New York State, the schools of New York City, are funded in an inequitable manner, and the State of New York was ordered to redress this situation.

The success or failure of education in this nation lies squarely on the shoulders of the people at the local level. This fact is born out by the uncanny success of home schooled children. The simple fact is some children achieve a good education and others don’t. Educational spending continues to rise and student performance overall continues to fall or remain level. To say that students are unprepared for college is only part of the story. The same Mr Gates who supports this PR maintains American corporations need to import their talent from other countries. This would indicate his analysis changes depending on who he’s talking to or students are also unprepared when leaving institutions of higher learning. The same institutions graduating students from abroad where Mr Gates seeks employees and are claimed to be too expensive for American students.

The success of “home schooled children” may also be linked to other factors. It is wholly conceiveable that those parents who have the means to school their children in a home environment have the financial means to be able to afford to have a parent who is a stay at home parent. Is it more likely that both of these parents are better educated than the parents who can not afford the luxury of schooling their children at home. Also, if a child is being schooled at home, the adult to child ratio is probably 1:1 to 6:1, although there may be some cases where one parent is teaching more than six children, I am not aware of any scientific studies that have documented this phenomena. In a typical public school classroom the adult to child ratio in a non-inclusion environment is often 25:1 or 30:1. To compare the two is a patently unfair.

There is a great deal more evidence which I will offer shortly, but this post has gone too long already. The followup is coming.

Parents, teachers, students, local and state governments have primary responsibility for our children’s educational success and no amount of meddling by the federal government will change that. The federal government can assist and enhance the education function but the primary responsibility remains at home. The place where home schooled children find success.


1 Comment »

  1. A Voice of Reason said:
    ‘While there is also truth in these statements, they are not at all the full truth, and in fact are much more effective as lies by mixing in a grain of truth. To say that money does not matter is folly.’

    Who said money doesn’t matter?

    Comment by Stanford Matthews — May 17, 2007 @ 2:06 pm | Reply

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