DeWeese Report Attacks Failed Federal Education Policy

“Our once great educational system is almost unrecognizable,” says Tom DeWeese, president of the American Policy Center, in the August issue of The DeWeese Report. “The problem is the curriculum; programs dictated from Washington, devoted to social engineering instead of basic academics.”

The Center is a grassroots, activist think tank headquartered in Herndon, VA. DeWeese is an expert on educational issues. In an extensive commentary titled, “The Failed Federal Education Policy”, DeWeese offers a scathing analysis of the federal intervention that has catapulted education as the major issue of the 2000 elections.

“If Congressional leaders took the time to actually study what is happening in the classrooms of America, they would understand the problem is not lack of money, not lack of qualified teachers, and not classroom size,” says DeWeese. As worried parents, often forced to spend their own money to help their children master basic academic skills, struggle to understand the failure of the nation’s educational system, DeWeese attacks the “restructuring of the classroom” brought about by federal dictated programs such as “block scheduling, group learning, or so-called cooperative learning.”

DeWeese points to the way, in one school, math, science, health, and physical education “has been combined in the belief that children can learn all these different subjects by working on a class project.” Despite the obvious fact that none of the complex individual skills required can be learned in such a manner, “children who can’t keep up are supposed to be helped along by other children in their group.” This is an educational policy designed around the lowest common denominator of success “and it’s doomed from the start.”

This “kids helping kids” approach is denounced as “nothing more than a classroom management technique that provides a convenient hiding place for bad teachers and under-achieving students. The student who doesn’t care to learn or has failed to grasp a concept allows the rest of the group to do the work, yet he gets their grade!” Students, says DeWeese, “coming out of such classes cannot perform math problems, recite multiplication tables, conjugate a verb or structure a sentence.”

Worse yet, this educational restructuring has been underway for the past forty years, says DeWeese, noting that “the pace has excelerated under the Clinton administration through programs such as Goals 2000, School-to-Work, the Careers Act, block grant programs like Title 1 and Title IV, and many more.” The latest folly, says DeWeese is “a do-nothing program called the “Straight A’s Act (H.R. 2300).”

Schools throughout America are totally dominated by federal programs, imposed and adopted by the States. “Children have been turned into commodities to be manipulated so that States can get more federal money,” says DeWeese. “It must stop! In every community in America, school boards and parents must wrest back control before yet another generation is dumbed down to the point where this nation will lose its most precious resource, an educated population capable of responding to the technological demands of a new era.”

Excerpt from the August issue, The DeWeese Report

THE FAILED FEDERAL EDUCATION POLICY

After forty years of almost non-stop federal programs, particularly in the past decade, an invasion by an army of psychologists, dumbed-down tests and an abandonment of the teaching of basic academic skills, our once great American education system is almost unrecognizable.

As a result of all of this federal attention, children are coming out of public schools unable to perform even basic math at a cash register. Their communication skills are little more than tribal gibberish. They have no interest in civics and they can’t find their hometown on a map. Colleges and employers have to provide remedial education programs to high school graduates just to assure they can get into college or fill out job applications.

If congressional leaders took the time to actually study what is happening in the classroom, they would understand the problem is not lack of money, lack of qualified teachers or classroom size. In fact, a classroom could consist of one student and one highly paid teacher, the student would still suffer if the teacher used the same teaching methods and curriculum now used in classrooms across the nation. The problem is the curriculum; programs dictated from Washington devoted to social engineering instead of basic academics.

RESTRUCTURING THE CLASSROOM.

It comes under many names; block scheduling, group learning, cooperative learning, but it’s all part of a radical change in the way children are taught in today’s classrooms.

Rather than teachers teaching, children are paired with others for group grades. Individual achievement is de-emphasized. Under block scheduling a number of subjects are tied together in one long class. For example, in one school, math science, health and physical education have been combined. Children are supposed to learn these skills by working on a class project, such as launching an imaginary rocket to the Moon.

Presumably when faced with various problems in building their rocket, students will seek out the necessary information. They’ll need math to calculate the projectory, science to find out where the Moon is and health to know what to feed the astronauts. Apparently physical education will teach them how to get the astronauts in shape. Children who can’t keep up are supposed to be helped along by other children in their group. It’s called “kids teaching kids.”

This so-called “cooperative learning” is nothing more than a classroom-management technique that provides a convenient hiding place for bad teachers and under-achieving students. The student who doesn’t care to learn or has failed to grasp a concept allows the rest of the group to do the work, yet he gets their grade. Students coming out of such classes cannot perform math problems, recite multiplication tables, conjugate a verb or structure a sentence.

MEANINGLESS SOLUTIONS AND POLITICAL POSTURING

This education restructuring has been underway for the past forty years, but the pace has excellerated under the Clinton Administration through programs such as Goals 2000, School-To-Work, The CAREERS Act, block grant programs like Title I and Title IV, and many more.

As the situation grows worse, politicians scramble to provide solutions. They call for stricter standards, more assessments of students, and of course, more money and smaller classrooms. Congress has suggested about every solution except the one that will do away with the problem; eliminating federal intervention in schools.

LEGISLATING FOLLY.

The latest folly to excite Republicans is a do-nothing program under the cute little title “Straight A’s Act (H.R.2300).” Of course the sound bites assure us all that the program is completely “voluntary” in the same way they represented Goals 2000. The program, they say, will give the states and parents the power to choose if they want to participate in federal programs. They promise higher test scores, school discipline, and a “brighter future for our children.” Isn’t that what the same politicians promised with Goals 2000?

“Straight A’s” promises to cut red tape and bureaucracies. Yet, in order to keep the federal funds flowing, all accountability continues to go to the federal government. The strings are still there; the programs are still in place.

Under the Act, states must have in place standards and aligned assessments, just like Goals 2000. Students must meet certain federal standards, just like Goals 2000. Throughout the Act, words like “states must assure…must implement…must have in place…” are used to dictate federal guidelines in order for states for states to qualify for the federal dollars. Where is the change in policy? Where is the new found freedom for the states? Where is the answer to improving education?

Worse, across the nation, federal guidelines have become state law. Now there are state level Goals 2000 and School-To-Work programs in place. These programs are run by an entrenched state bureaucracy that answers to and is in alignment to the federal Department of Education. They control the flow and use of the money. They implement the programs.

Nothing will change under “Straight A’s” Act. It is a flimflam. It is an attempt by the Republicans to pretend they are doing something about education while they leave the system intact.

The only hope Americans have that education will improve will happen when someone in Congress finally begins to understand that any program that controls federal money is the enemy.

Abolish the Department of Education, leave education dollars in the states instead of laundering them through Washington D.C., and get the federal government out of education. Then the problem will solve itself. Any other solution is a worthless Band-Aid that plays into the well-financed hands of the education bureaucracy that created the crisis in the first place. That is the reason academic skills are falling.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.