Starting From Scratch — Just Another Education Ploy?
Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, in recent meetings in Missouri regarding Ferguson said he was exploring how education can help improve conditions. This indicates that Washington was getting the message that perhaps school problems might have contributed to the incidents, turmoil and protests. Not the least of these reports must surely have been this one from Deborah Andrews, which triggered some shame and blame in the highest corridors of power — Blacks locked out of reading http://www.examiner.com/article/ferguson-facts-all-ignore-blacks-locked-out-of-reading
Pointed out in her article is the glaring statistic that while 50% of white students read at the proficient/advanced level, only 15% of black students achieve that level. No need to wait, she says — at least start now with improving the reading levels without having to wait for some inquiry commission to report back in Sept 2015!
Duncan sees restrictive school zip codes as a problem, wants more Early Childhood Education (ECE) and wants to start “from scratch” to build better relationships between police and young people. http://www.ksdk.com/story/news/local/2014/12/17/education-secretary-visits-ferguson/20519791/
While I see the question of zip codes as a huge problem that displaces parents from making choices for their kids — a consumer issue — I do not see ECE as helpful in its present guise (too loaded in favor of provider benefits). I do think starting from scratch is a good strategy, not just for relationships but also for education as a whole. Now, where did we hear that before?
Jeb Bush, in a November speech to the 2014 National Summit on Education Reform, said:
*** “Even if we don’t all agree on Common Core, there are more important principles for us to agree on. We need to pull together whenever we can. It starts with a basic question: If we were designing our school system from scratch, what would it look like?
*** I know one thing: We wouldn’t start with more than 13,000 government-run, unionized and politicized monopolies who trap good teachers, administrators and struggling students in a system nobody can escape.
*** We would be insane if we recreated what we have today.
*** So let’s think and act like we are starting from scratch.”***
Briefly put, this is the current school system baggage he wants to leave outside the discussion room:
√ 1) Government-run; 2) Unionized; 3) Monopoly; 4) Politicized schools (GUMP)
Oops! It seems Bush forgot the parents who are also trapped in these GUMP schools!
Left-out parents and consumers need to reclaim education for children. How can we customize for the needs and talents of children without parents involved? How can we be sure any new approach is NOT just another stall to keep the status quo — keeping the self-serving and political producers who through incrementalism and permeation (Fabian socialist methods) have evicted parents from their primary role in education?
The most promising development in reclaiming who the proper drivers should be in education is the work behind Education Savings Accounts (ESA) as in Arizona and Florida. Dare we ask the parents in Ferguson if they would take a 90% education dollar and go shopping for their children’s education?
[This essay was published on the Education Consumers Clearinghouse listserve 18 Dec, 2014.]