Thursday, June 7, 2012

It is Time for Educational Reform: Don't Privatize It - Parentize It

Bill 13 passed the Ontario Legislature this week.  The bill requires all schools, even Catholic ones, to set up "Gay-Straight Alliance" clubs to propagandize for the homosexual acts as natural and good purportedly so that children and teens who experience any signs of gender confusion will be encouraged to be proud of their "sexual identity."  Of course, the real purpose is to silence opposition to the agenda of the pansexualist revolution that seeks to undermine traditional marriage and family as structures of oppression.

Last year the Ontario government implemented JK-12 sex education programs designed to teach that sex is good as long as you use contraception at various points in the curriculum so that parents cannot remove children from specific sex education classes.  The purpose here is to break down natural and normal shame and embarrassment about sex so that sex can become just another bodily function like taking a drink of water.  For 3000 years (or more) civilization as surrounded sex with taboos and mystery because it is so important to society and to the individual but all this "superstition" is now to be swept away.  The point is to talk about it endlessly so as to make it seem coarse, physical and trivial.

The government is so infiltrated by the new neo-pagan religion of secularism that is is no longer even making a pretense of recognizing the natural right of parents to raise their own children as they see fit within their own culture and religion.  This same government covers up its cultural imperialism and denial of religious liberty with the facade of "multiculturalism," which in modern-speak is just another word for moral relativism.  Make no mistake, this is not liberal democracy.  It is the totalitarianism of the progressive state with its myth of progress by the rule of experts.

Many Canadians, even Christians, have been brainwashed into accepting the nationalization of education by the government as normal.  But it is not; it is tyranny.

But there is hope and it comes from the Republican candidate for president, who is running on education reform.  See Mitt Romney's "Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education."  It is 34 pages of common sense and it exudes the air of liberal democracy, toleration and reason.  It is not the theocratic imposition of Christianity on society as a whole; irrational Canadian prejudices against Republicans notwithstanding.  Far from it.  It reverses the top-down, bureaucratic, State controlled, union-directed nature of contemporary American education.  It is anti-totalitarian and parent-centered.  The goal is not to "privatize" education, but to "parentize" it. 

Peter Ferrara has an excellent three page summary of the plan here in American Spectator entitled "Romney's Education Choice."  He summarizes the problem as Romney sees it:
Romney's 34-page white paper explaining the reform proposals, "A Chance for Every Child," begins by explaining what is at stake: "Only 2 percent of those who graduate from high school, get a full time job, and wait until age 21 and get married before having children end up in poverty. By comparison, that figure is 76 percent for those who fail to do all three."

And it explained the problem, saying:
Across the nation, our school system is a world leader in spending yet lags on virtually every measure of results…. On the latest international PISA test, American high school students ranked 14th out of 34 developed countries in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math. China's Shanghai province led the world in all three subjects, outperforming the United States by multiple grade levels in each."
Performance of our current public school system is so bad, it's a civil rights problem:
Our K-12 system also poses one of the foremost civil rights challenges of our time: the achievement gap facing many minority groups. The average African American or Hispanic student performs at the same level in 12th grade that the average white student achieves in 8th grade. More than one in three African American and Hispanic students fails to graduate from high school within four years of entering…. The tragic result is that instead of providing an escape from the cycle of poverty, our educational system is reinforcing it.
Schools are failing.  That is not news.  So what is the solution?  The Teacher's unions always tell you the same old tired story: higher taxes and more spending on education is needed.  But this has been tried, both in the US and Canada for 50 years with worsening results.  Ferrara writes:

The root of the problem is not lack of resources: "The cause is not a lack of public investment: as a nation we spend over $11,000 annually on each student enrolled in K-12 education, more than almost any other country." Romney's White Paper adds:
We spend two and a half times as much per pupil today, in real terms, as in 1970, but high school achievement and graduation rates have stagnated. Higher spending rarely correlates with better results. Even the liberal Center for American Progress acknowledged in a recent study that "the literature strongly calls into question the notion that simply investing more money in schools will result in better outcomes," and reported from its own research that most states showed "no clear relationship between spending and achievement."
Romney adds further: "Despite spending more than twice as much per student as other developed countries, our degree attainment lags behind.
No, the real problem is not too little spending on education; the real problem is teacher's unions.  The system is set up for the benefit of the adults, not for the benefit of the kids.
Romney commendably did not shrink from identifying the real root of the problem -- teachers unions. The campaign White Paper says:
Unfortunately, rather than embracing reform and innovation, America remains gridlocked in an antiquated system controlled to a disturbing degree by the unions representing teachers. The teachers unions spend millions of dollars to influence the debate in favor of the entrenched interests of adults, not the students our system should serve. The efforts of teachers will be central to any successful reform, but their unions have a very different agenda: opposing innovation that might disrupt the status quo while insulating even the least effective teachers from accountability….[T]eachers unions are consistently on the front lines fighting against initiatives to attract and retain the best teachers, measure performance, provide accountability, or offer choices to parents.
Public sector employees should never have been unionized and they should not have collective bargaining privileges.  Those are fine for the private sector where there is a built-in incentive to be reasonable; if the unions demand too much the company goes bankrupt and they lose their jobs.  There workers need protection against exploitation and unions create a balance of competing interests.

But public sector unions collect large amounts of money from the rank and file (often involuntarily) and then give it to political candidates who promise to give the unions higher and higher wages and benefits.  This is a scam.  Since it is the public purse, everyone thinks there is no end to the money tree. 

So working class parents pay higher taxes so that teachers can retire early with fat pensions AND at the same time are haughtily told that they have no say in how their children are educated even to the point where the school system is teaching against their religious faith.  Unions and government bureaucracy insulate school administrators from the wishes of parents and thus doubly oppress ordinary people by exploiting them financially and denying them their human rights as parents.

How would Romney's plan work?
The federal government spends more than $25 billion a year, two-thirds of its funding for K-12 education, through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) focused on students from low income families and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Romney proposes to change the law to provide this funding to the schools that the low income and special needs children and their families choose, tying the dollars to each child rather than to each school. They can choose any public or charter school anywhere in the state, as they prefer, or any private school in the state if permitted by state law. States would have to adopt these choice policies to receive the federal funds.
States would also have to remove all caps on charter schools, and provide funding to charter schools under the same formula that applies to all other publicly supported schools, including access to capital funds. This ensures that low income and special needs children will have a full scope of choices available to them.
The government would provide equal funding for every child; parents would decide where this funding would be spent.  Schools would need to compete or go under.  The incentives would shift away from the priorities of adults to the priorities of educating children effectively. 

It is shocking to realize that big unions and left-wing interest groups are determined to everything in their power to prevent this from happening.  The prefer to spout noble-sounding rhetoric while exploiting poor children and parents.  They have a deep incentive to protect the status quo; but they simply must be defeated for the sake of the common good.

What would be some of the benefits of such a system? Ferrara writes:
In this new environment, the combined choices of parents, students and families would automatically work school reform. Funding would automatically and immediately flow to the schools that best satisfied parents and students with the best teaching methods, materials, and subject matter. Schools that failed to change and serve would automatically lose funding. If they persisted in failing, they would ultimately lose their students to other, better performing schools, and have to close.

This system would also promote decentralized experimentation and innovation, allowing more scope and opportunity for the demonstration of the virtue of new ideas and innovations. Experienced teachers with better ideas for instruction could more easily start their own schools to demonstrate the superiority and appeal of their innovations. The system would also allow for decentralized flexibility, with different schools striving to maximize the cultivation and flourishing of different talents and abilities, whether in math, science, music, the arts, or other disciplines. Competing schools would be tailored to the needs and skills of children, not one size fits all from a government monopoly that leaves many behind because the material is too easy or too hard.

Every child is different. Some kids have learning disabilities. Some boys need strict discipline and should not be in coed schools. Some kids have a special talent for music, talent, entrepreneurship, sports, vocational skills. Some families want religious education, others don't. Some need individualized attention. Some have severe behavior problems that can be overcome with the right stylized program. With school choice as Romney has proposed, parents and students could then each pick the school that best served their particular needs and preferences.
It is breathtaking to imagine the wonderful benefits such a system would provide.  It would strengthen families, empower parents, provide opportunities to children stuck in failing schools and it would permit appropriate diversity in the educational system.  The one-size-fits-all model of socialized education is a relic of the industrial era and needs to be abandoned.  For heaven's sake: the Berlin Wall fell 23 years ago!  It is time to let our children go! 

I pray that Mitt Romney is elected in November and that he is successful in implementing this vision.  It this happens, I predict it will be wildly successful and popular.  And that will give us, who desire educational reform here in Ontario a working model to point to as the better way.  The union dinosaurs will undoubtedly fight real progress because their perks are at stake, so it will require perseverance and determination to bring about real, democratic reform.  But the future of our country and the liberty of our people is at stake.

(See also Keith Fournier's take on the Romney plan.)

Cross-posted at The Bayview Review.

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