A Child Left Behind

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"The
people never give up their liberties but under some delusion."

~
Edmund Burke, speech at country meeting of Buckinghamshire, 1784

New
Beginnings

Bush's
No Child Left Behind agenda is but the logical extension of our
current educational system. Is this a bold statement? I think not.
Those who think the act radical or otherwise intrusive have not
studied the history of education in this country. Such is the nature
of the beast.

True,
in the beginning of America, education was not within the realm
of government, and certainly not within the grasp of the federal
government. But evolutionary and revolutionary changes in our society,
government, and economy have led us to the NCLBA. It has been a
slow process, but these days a political revolution is geared to
take decades, not weeks, months, or years. Government-based programs
have time and control on their side.

A
Personal Account

1973.
I never recognized my birth year as a significant period of history.
Perhaps it was too contemporaneous for study in public schools,
where I learned of Mesopotamia, the Renaissance, and even those
20th Century events like the Great Depression and the
posthumously named "War to End All Wars."

Yes,
the public school teachers seemed to studiously avoid discussion
of more modern events. It was as if the political chicanery of recent
decades was in the realm of religion. They dared not touch the vital
nerve of our present condition; it might draw up deep passions.
Based on a horrendous lack of interest in ancient history, such
learning could never stir the blood enough to offend. They made
it bland, straightforward, and something they could dispense to
students in definitive doses. So that is where we stayed, in the
archaic.

Politics
and modern government were topics for self-discovery. If your parents
had a political philosophy, they were responsible for this type
of education, if they cared. The school system goal (in keeping
with John Dewey's original intent) was to socialize children, so
they could be participants in a progressive society.

Yes,
we studied the Constitution, but not in a rigorous way. A quiz here
asked how many Articles there were, or if we could name a delegate.
Depth was severely lacking.

The
takeaway from public school: we had a Constitution, a noble document,
which outlined the form of our existing government. The tripartite
had enacted some changes along the way, but only changes necessary
to changing times. This evolution of the Constitution was in keeping
with Dewey's relativistic ideals. But we were still a great, democratic
nation.

Higher
Education

College
did little to change this educational paradigm. How could it be
otherwise? Universities and colleges are but an extension of public
school system. Publicly subsidized (even private institutions like
my alma mater), they further establish the establishment. Although
some dedicated professors shine like jewels, they are deeply embedded
in the snout of an oversized hog. Dissent from conventional wisdom
is rare indeed.

College
is a time for self-awareness though, an age in life that sparks
rebellion and disbelief. Most questions I had could not be answered
by textbook. Most questions could not even find origin in those
textbooks. The books were so shamefully partisan that little, if
any room for discussion was prompted. And although I sensed a struggling
within my class, we were too ignorant to know how to ask the
question, too uneducated to grasp what question we wanted to
ask. For too many future citizens, that smoldering fire of curiosity
and questioning was laid to rest in those formative years.

Yes
again, courses similar to secondary education were offered – World
History I & II, American History I & II, and Political Science.
College level courses did allow shallow investigations into current
government, at least delving into those years leading up to the
existing administration. But what was the takeaway from college?
Little different.

The
government was a noble institution, just like the public school
system. Yes, we studied some controversial issues, but the conclusion
remained that our constitutionally based government was intact.
The government was made up of myself and my classmates, we were
told! We had to but step into the political circle or enter a voting
booth to move the country in the direction we thought correct. We
were empowered people!

Back
to my birthright. My political science professor taught that in
the 1973 era the federal government became accountable to the public,
by way of the press. The Vietnam retreat and the Watergate exposé
proved that the public could hold officials to the fire, if corruption
was uncovered (or should I say undercovered).

Put
another way, The Press was diametrically opposed to The Federal
Government, and protected citizens from officials that would otherwise
overextend their reach. The press limited government power. Officials
that lied, accepted bribes, or promoted self-interests were placed
under bit and bridle. In the final analysis, we still lived under
a noble, constitutionally based government. Ideas expressed in order
to deepen our faith in government . . .

Higher
Education for Secondary Education

Like
most college students, I didn't have an inkling of my future. Believing
that college should provide a "liberal education," not
a career, I somehow chose to double-major in English / Secondary
Education. The few serious teachers and professors I had studied
under had unintentionally convinced me to follow in their steps.
There were many paths I could take, and I considered this one honorable.
That idea slowly melted away during the actual college years.

While
student-teaching, in my final semester of college, the last bit
of that resolve left me. Forced to be a sponsor of state education,
I had to set aside my doubts about the government and follow the
curriculum. How else could I ask my students to compete in a 500-word
essay contest, pre-titled "America, the Great" (sponsored
by the local chapter of the American Legion)? Students protested,
some with valid arguments, but I countered them with that obsequious
question: what other country in the world is as great as America?

So
I ended my college years and entered the working world, my B.A.
in English / Secondary Education what I had initially opposed: an
economic banner that might help me get a real job. Due to the extra-curricular
education by my father, I left college with a growing number of
questions, not answers. My father's strong political views would
continue to help shape mine as I entered adulthood. And I am now
coming to appreciate the value of such personal teaching.

Horace
Mann and a Brief History of Public Education

Horace
Mann, called the father of the public education system, became the
chair of the first State Board of Education. In Massachusetts. Kerry's
state. In 1852, with the assistance of several wealthy industrialists,
the Massachusetts legislature passed the first compulsory education
act.

If
you were to study this period, two facts emerge:

  • The citizens
    of Massachusetts resisted this law as tyranny. How many parents
    today see public education as an infringement on their rights?
  • The language
    used to promote the law was unapologetic. Unlike today's politicians,
    the legislature promoted education as a means to produce 1)
    competent factory workers and 2) state-subordinate citizens.

Under
the spell of these pseudo-Prussians, the majority of state governments
followed suit. By the time John Dewey had written his famous treatise
"Democracy and Education," the idea of state-sponsored
education was generally accepted. Dewey simply refined the ideas
promoted by Mann: students should become tools of the greater society,
not liberally educated, self-sufficient citizens. The battle between
state and individual had been lost.

After
the explosion of the welfare state during the FDR tenure, it was
not surprising to see the federal government extend its reach to
include education. State schools are still reeling with the effects
of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), passed during
Lyndon Johnson's tenure, under the umbrella of the "Great Society"
and Civil Rights. Since then federal subsidies, lobbied and promoted
by the NEA, have taken affect. Tracing the public education system
is akin to reading Dante's Inferno;
they both wind down to a pit of despair. Bush's NCLBA is but another
level on the staircase of an eternally damned system.

Education
and Politics

Just
like a person's diet, their political views are most often a product
of their exposure and their comfort level with that exposure. A
Louisiana native would likely be familiar and comfortable with parboiled
rice, white beans, and crayfish, but probably not with tabouli.
A recent immigrant from Latin America would undoubtedly feel at
home eating dinner at El Acapulco, but not at Il Portico. Another
way of explaining this idea would be to ask you: Have you ever tried
to serve sushi to a bona fide Texan cowboy? Usually you can't. It
is out of their personal comfort range.

This
may sound narrow-minded, even racist, but I side with a man who
defended such ideas (Richard M. Weaver, see Life Without Prejudice
And Other Essays).

So
what is the political comfort level of my generation? What is their
exposure? Just like diet, it definitely depends on their race, their
economic status, their education level, and their family. But they
do have one thing in common: 98% were rubber stamped by the public
school system. And for most, so were their parents.

What
does this mean? In short, the public may have strong views regarding
party politics, but they have an unwavering faith in the overall
system. They simply do not question federal control of education,
only perturbate over the impact of federal initiatives! If their
education ended when they stepped into the working world, then they
probably never asked the questions that matter.

Those
products of state-sponsored education have not read anything about
history, except in torpid textbooks. They have not studied governments,
or historical limits placed on governments. They may have heard
of the Magna Carta, but they could not explain its significance.
They know that habeas corpus is a legal term, but don't know
the importance of this right in our present world. They have not
an understanding of war, or historical causes of war.

They
have not studied the evolution of political parties, or the effect
of these parties in England. It does not cause them any heartburn
to know that in the last fifty years we have sent our troops into
nearly three-dozen foreign countries. So long to the Monroe Doctrine;
they don't know what it represents. And the idea of trading security
for freedom is well within their comfort range.

Terrorism
has trumped tyranny. Modern education has been exalted above the
autonomy of a well-read individual. Party politics rule. Our representatives
sway with the polls. All this and more, I say, because Americans
surrendered their right to educate their own children. A state-sponsored,
self-aggrandizing system cannot fail to produce these results.

Education
as a Key

Now
thirty years old and behind the ball, I am slowly retooling my thought
processes, learning the history of my age. The 1973 era is important,
well beyond the significance imposed by the Republocrat campaigns.
Kerry's war record vs. Bush's war record. Who cares? Who can sling
the most mud? The masses can't and won't dig deeper. What about
Nixon closing the gold window, and how it has affected our fiat
money system? Why were we really involved in Vietnam? Was it to
liberate the Vietnamese, like we have liberated the Iraqis? How
is it that President Ford pardoned Nixon? Was this the justice deserved
by a criminal? Or how can one look at the Fox News Network and even
think that the press protects us?

So
we see that the pollen that John Dewey carried in his pockets, spread
in his letters, and distributed in his sphere of influence has borne
fruit. Publicly schooled teachers are incompetent, students lack
basic skills, and police are necessary to give the appearance that
our schools are safe. But students are properly socialized, be sure
of that. We'll be eating Dewey's rotten fruit until the collapse
of the empire. Hopefully sooner than later.

Life
comes full circle. My wife and I both majored in Secondary Education.
We have yet to set our feet in public schools, or private for that
matter. We have, however, chosen to exercise our right as parents
and homeschool our children. Products of the public education system,
we know the weaknesses and strengths it holds. We also know that
whoever holds the key to education also holds the key to the future.
We are the minority. Given the reach and growth of our current state
and federal governments, we don't see a significant change anytime
soon. But we've been studying our history, reading on governments,
and learning about empires. Maybe, in the wake of the collapse others
will step forward and secure the future for their children.

September
10, 2004

Daniel
Ernst [send him mail] and
his wife homeschool their children in the Ozark Mountains.

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