"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pink Floyd, Ronald Reagan, Robert Frost, & Public Education..."Something There is that Doesn't Love a Wall, That Wants it Down"

Read the article here from American Thinker. Mr. Mulholland has an interesting plan on how to restructure secondary education. Here is his thesis on why secondary education is failing students:

Our school system was designed many decades, well over century, ago, much of it before high school was invented, and when college was for only a very few. While adequate for the elementary grades (for which it was designed), it does not work well for the upper grades. It did not expand effectively as the nation grew and our goals changed. It is time to redesign it with no preconceived notions except to meet the needs of the students and the society they must live in.

Mulholland's plan won't require billions and billions of dollars, such as Race to the Top or the adoption of common core standards. It won't require unfunded or underfunded federal mandates.

It will return the role of education to the states. Students will be able to work at their own pace and independently. Parents and students will have choices in educational decisions.

The choice architects who designed Race to the Top may have wanted us to believe they were "meeting the needs of the students and the society they must live in" when they were formulating their redesign plan; but there is a distinct and important difference in the method Mr. Mullholland is suggesting and the method put forth by the Federal government and states in the pursuit of Race to the Top and common core standards. It is very clear parents and students were not factored into the planning of reform by the government entities...they base their methods on Cass Sunstein's "Nudge". Do you remember the description of this book on which Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro based her application (see page 9) for Race to the Top money?:

Every day, we make decisions on topics ranging from personal investments to schools for our children to the meals we eat to the causes we champion. Unfortunately, we often choose poorly. The reason, the authors explain, is that, being human, we all are susceptible to various biases that can lead us to blunder. Our mistakes make us poorer and less healthy; we often make bad decisions involving education, personal finance, health care, mortgages and credit cards, the family, and even the planet itself.

According to Sunstein and Nicastro, parents, students and taxpayers are not smart enough to make their own educational decisions or determine the individual educational direction for their student. Mr. Mulholland's plan puts the parents, students and taxpayers in the driver's seat and they are the ones making the educational choices.

Read the comments after the article as well. Mulholland and the readers have raised some interesting questions and ideas. They are common sense approaches to problems that the Department of Education haven't been able to figure out for 40 years...and has cost taxpayers (and students) an enormous amount for failure.

I agree with Mulholland: fire the choice architects, put the parents and taxpayers on planning committees, permit education to be locally controlled, and there will be a better chance our students will succeed and become "globally competitive".

This radical common sense plan protects the individual and his/her freedom to choose his/her path; the government's plan treats a student like "you're just another brick in the wall". Ronald Reagan told Gorbachev in his famous Berlin speech, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall". Perhaps we should adapt President Reagan's line to the Federal government's educational plan for students, taxpayers and parents. Public education with its mandates, regulations, and forced compliance is becoming a symbol, a brick wall, of educational totalitarianism. It's time to tear down this wall.

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