Another New Future for Education

November 24, 2008

by Tammy Drennan

It’s that time again – new president, new ways to twist and manipulate children into what the “experts” think they ought to be to suit the goals the power-gobblers have for the future of America.


To that end, The Wall Street Journal has weighed in with interviews of a few education gurus in its Shaping the New Agenda: CEO Council Journal Report.


“What should President Obama do?” asks The Journal. They ask lots of CEOs and CEO-types in different fields.


In the education field, we get James Comer, a professor of child psychiatry at Yale; Joel Klein, Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education; and Louis Gerstner Jr., former CEO of IBM, all of whom we have no doubt intend the very best for other people’s children.


Their answers to “What should President Obama do about education” are fairly predictable based on current trends and their individual areas of work and interest.


Mr. Gerstner is the no-nonsense, authoritarian, just-go-in-and-do-it guy. We know exactly what to do about all the ignorant little K-12 munchkins, he says: Keep them in school for longer hours and more days, set higher, more rigorous standards for them, get better teachers and pay them more, have national standards for students and national certification for teachers, crack down on accountability, and reduce the number of school districts from 16,000 to 70 (the better to manage them, my dear).


Mr. Comer, being a child psychiatrist, is a bit more of a softy, although he says he agrees with a lot of what Mr. Gerstner says. He worries that we are not training teachers to relate to immature children in order to move them from their “underdeveloped state to well-functioning adults.”  He also worries that we are not focusing on non-academic learning, the sort that will give children “imagination, curiosity, personal discipline, responsibility…” – all those things the human race suffered without until the last 180 years when America implemented compulsory state schooling.


Mr. Klein has some first-hand experience, but it hasn’t triggered any unique insights in him: National standards and assessments, get rid of poor-performing teachers (if you can), pay good teachers more money. He does make one radical suggestion – apply all federal education funds to teacher excellence. And he’s not a Washington-can-do-it-all guy; he believes states should be free to innovate, as long as that innovation leads to certain outcomes (Mr. Gerstner is okay with this, too).


Interviews like this one by The Wall Street Journal are frustrating and really pointless. No one asks the hard or important questions. Maybe it’s because they don’t know what to ask, or maybe they don’t want to put the big-wigs on the hot seat.


Here are some questions Mr. Comer, Mr. Klein and Mr. Gerstner got to avoid.


1. How on earth did the human race manage to slog through thousands upon thousands of years of progress and innovation (think art, architecture, science, inventions, technology, philosophy, literature, music) all the way to the mid-1800s when Horace Mann and his kindred spirits finally got the various states of the USA to institute compulsory state schooling and saved humanity and the future?


2. How on earth did America survive for over 200 years – and become the envy of the world – before the mid-1800s when Horace Mann and his kindred spirits – you know the drill… see No. 1.


3. What is the purpose of education? Is it to shape all children into beings fit to serve the interests of the state and industry (this is what the early proponents of compulsory state schooling thought)? Is it to create faithful citizens who will defend the state?


4. What makes you feel you have the ability or the right to influence or dictate policies that will force children to be instructed to the transcription of government officials and those with the power and the money to shape the thinking of those officials?


There are many more questions, of course, but this would be a good start.


This is certain: These fellows and many influential people like them believe one thing in common – the government should be in charge of the intellectual development of children and thus the future of freedom and possibility — and it should be going after the children earlier, longer, and more vigorously and rigorously.


And what stands between America’s children and these folks who feel so superior in their philosophies that the use of force to get them down the throats of others is not even considered part of the debate? Parents.


The one force that still retains the power to stop the madness is parents. To be sure, it will take the support of many others, but the power lies in the hands of the parents.


Millions have already chosen independence. They have chosen to withhold their children from the self-appointed shapers of the future. They have chosen the path that has worked so well in the past – the one on which people retain property rights to their own minds and thus the future.


For these millions we are deeply grateful at this time of Thanksgiving. Let’s commit ourselves over the next year to empowering millions more.