April 8, 2009

Lovely: Re-education camps

Armed with the hopenchange slogan, the Obama administration has started to focus on the quality of education in America. It's a slam dunk to say America needs to improve it's school system because practically every American agrees on that. What's not agreed upon, is the solution required to improve education. The re-education camp approach the administration has chosen to focus on, is (1) not the most effective solution and (2) unsettling in it's implications.

The Associated Press is reporting that,

American schoolchildren need to be in class more — six days a week, at least 11 months a year — if they are to compete with students abroad, Education Secretary
Arne Duncan said Tuesday.

"Go ahead and boo me," Duncan told about 400 middle and high school students at a public school in northeast Denver.

"I fundamentally think that our school day is too short, our school week is too short and our school year is too short."

"You're competing for jobs with kids from India and China. I think schools should be open six, seven days a week; eleven, twelve months a year," he said.

That sounds good on paper, and in fact, posing as a champion of non-liberal thinking, Duncan went even further. In fact he seems positioned to disagree with much of what the liberal Democrat establishment is predicated upon.

The former Chicago schools superintendent praised Denver schools for allowing schools to apply for almost complete autonomy, which allows them to waive union contracts so teachers can stay for after-school tutoring or Saturday school.

He also applauded Denver's pay-for-performance teacher pay system, which some Democrats and teachers' groups oppose.


Last month, he said poor children who receive vouchers to attend private schools in the District of Columbia should be allowed to stay there, putting the Obama administration at odds with Democrats trying to end the program. Duncan talked up school choice during his Denver visit, though he didn't mention vouchers.

It all sounds very, well conservative. Why be suspicious of something that would seem to be in line with conservative goals? Because of the source of the proposals. Sure there may be things Republicans and Democrats can agree upon, but education reform was never one of them. Democrats are beholden to teachers' unions. Democrats vehemently opposed school voucher systems in the past and school choice is essentially that.

So why would an ultra-liberal Obama administration be doing this? For ulterior motives. Under the guise of bi-partisanship and reaching across the aisle to endorse a good idea from Republicans the administration has already positioned this in such a way that Republicans are trapped. They have to agree or they are obstructionist because it's an agenda item they always wanted. The only reason to oppose it now would be because they just want to scrap with President Obama on everything. And to raise concerns with particulars as they come out, would be positioned as being nit-picky. And besides, the items will get passed with or without Republican backing. Worst case for the Obama administration is that Republicans agree and Democrats balk, but he still comes out as being the bi-partisan one in this. It seems to be a no lose situation for him politically.

But it still comes back to why would the administration go off on an atypical conservative tangent? It's simple. The biggest point is more school time. More time in school means more indoctrination time. School choice and vouchers may be all well and good but the public education system will not disappear, and will still be a predominant component of the new structure. And if it's share of the game starts to slip, you'd better believe they'll use tax incentives and/or disincentives to maintain the government's share of educating your children.

It will keep the unions happy. It will mean those teachers will have more time with your children. Consequently they'll get a pay raise. They'll be happy. It means that the opportunity to teach cultural topics will be even greater. It means that government schools can add more and more garbage to the agenda because parents will now have choice.

It also means the set-up of Afro-centric and Hispanic-centric school choices. That becomes a self-fulfilling closed loop of 'education'. In other words more opportunity to indoctrinate children into liberal ideology. Yes, conservatives will opt out of the garbage-agenda schools and will see higher levels of success. But for Democrats it's a divide and conquer tactic. You keep your voters we'll keep ours and we'll see which Demographic grows faster (all the smart money is on Hispanics by the way).

If this passes while Democrats are in power it will be a rigged system you can guarantee it. This is nothing short of trying to improve Democratic electoral opportunities in the future. Republicans should be very careful with this and not sign on unless all logical pre-conditions are met. For example, which schools will be accredited as voucher acceptable? I have my fears about who decides that. Not to mention, the fact that it's quite likely the Democrats will figure out a way to do this so that it enlarges government. They're sneaky that way.

If it passes regardless of opposition, every conservative parent should immediately start investigating which school system makes sense for their children.

It should also be pointed out that being able to compete with Chinese and Indian education shouldn't require 6 days a week, 11 months a year of schooling. There's plenty of examples of so much extra crap being shoved into the curriculum that is taking away from the fundamentals of math, science, basic English, history and geography. That is the real culprit. It's a much easier fix. Get back to basics and stop teaching environmentalism, and cultural understanding (let the First Amendment right to free assembly teach that) and that sort of drivel. Music? Yes, it's good to learn but I bet China isn't teaching their children as much music as Americans. Not unless they show a talent and are herded into a music-focused school. That's the reality Mr President. (See the video here for President Obama's lilting vision on music).

Lastly, this may sound touchy-feely liberal, but it isn't, it's just common sense: children need time to be children and to have family time - it shouldn't be all government time. To bring it back to less mushy ground - if students are already spending time doing homework and attending class at the same rate as kids in the 50's, who had a much better understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic, then something other than the time factor is the problem, because the length of the school year hasn't changed too much in the last 50 years.

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