F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
September 17, 2000
Defederalizing Our Public Schools

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

There's nothing wrong with the public schools that the free market can't fix. More important, there's nothing wrong with the public schools that anything but the free market can fix!

"The first thing the next U.S. President should know about the state of American education is that -- despite occasional reports that we're 'turning a corner' and some legitimate bright spots -- the United States is still a nation educationally 'at risk,'" declares Michael Garber of the Hudson Institute. "Of course, it is tempting for a president to want to solve such a glaring national problem at the national level," he concedes, "but these are matters appropriately, and indeed constitutionally, left to the states."

In the current issue of American Outlook, a quarterly publication of the Hudson Institute, Garber reports that the education establishment is lobbying for "a raft of new federal initiatives to right perceived educational wrongs." He urges the next President to "resist these ideas on both philosophical grounds (they are not the federal government's job) and prudential grounds (thirty years of such large-scale experiments have failed already)."

Garber argues that "the biggest trend in K-12 education today is private investment and entrepreneurship." He urges the next President to encourage this promising development by "restructuring or eliminating federal programs" that stifle or obstruct it. "The extraordinary revolution in the works is not the natural outgrowth of the government-dominated, monopolistic education system created in the mid-1800s," Garber emphasizes. "The level of attention and innovation we are beginning to witness," he contends, "is the direct result of the efforts of thousands of education reformers who have pushed for greater openness in our country's education system through various 'choice' mechanisms, as well as technological advances that are further democratizing access to knowledge." Garber notes that innovations are "occurring rapidly in states and cities that devolve authority to individual families making decisions about their children's educational needs." He advises the next President to "embrace and promote the strategies" of America's education entrepreneurs.

In the same issue of American Outlook, syndicated columnist Mona Charen chastises the feminist theorists who have "sought to create school environments that will force boys to become more like girls. In state after state and school district after school district," she reports, "this bold attempt to remake human nature takes many forms. Competitive play and learning are frowned upon," Charen charges. "Teachers and administrators encourage 'cooperative learning,' in which teams of students help one another 'discover' the answers, and stark distinctions between right and wrong answers are blurred. Even on the playground," she emphasizes, "competition is discouraged, and games 'where no one keeps score' are recommended."

Charen concludes that "our national attempt to control and redirect the aggressive and violent aspects of male nature has been an utter failure. It has, in fact, had the very opposite effect from that intended. The repeal of the old standards," she laments, "has led to a masculinity crisis in America." Charen advises the next President to "sweep the feminists from the Department of Education and use the bully pulpit to encourage old-fashioned pedagogy. . . . Not doing so," Charen warns, "will court further increases in violent crime and barbaric behavior."

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