Monday, July 02, 2007

The Education Gods that Failed: A Response to Richard Day

In Richard Day's response to yesterday's "The 'B' Word" post, in which I hailed the U. S. Supreme Court's decision striking down forced busing as the simple application of common sense, he asks, "What would Jesus do?"

Now I have searched my Bible concordance, and I am having a heck of a time finding the word "busing" in the Good Book. But apparently there is some sort of religious imperative to put children on buses for long rides across town so they can be in the same geographical vicinity as other children in some other part of town, while the children from that part of town are bused to the part of town where the first bunch of children were bused from so they can be in a different geographical vicinity than the first bunch of children before they were bused from that location themselves to be in the same geographical vicinity as the others.

I mean, it's obvious isn't it?

But wait: I thought religion had no place in public schools? Does this mean we can we start Bible classes now too?

If busing contributed to better education, then, after instituting busing, shouldn't we have seen evidence of children being better educated? Well, we instituted busing. So where is this boom in educational achievement following the court order? In fact, hasn't one of the big stories about education in Kentucky (including Jefferson County) been the achievement gap between black and white students in recent years? How can this be after all these years of forced busing?

Could it be, perhaps, that busing HAS NO RELATION TO BETTER EDUCATION?

Now if busing does not actually improve education, what does it do? What busing does is make liberals feel better about themselves because they have Done Something. It doesn't matter what they have done, or whether what they have done actually does any measurable good, or even whether it is positively detrimental. No. All that matters is that they have Done Something. And once they have Done Something, then they not only feel better about themselves, they can also look down on other people, especially those people who oppose busing because it HAS NO RELATION TO BETTER EDUCATION.

One must say these thing several times for the educational establishment, which can be very hard of hearing.

So what is the Something that makes liberals feel good about themselves? It is the bringing about of Equality and Diversity. At the altar of these two things that you can count on liberals to sacrifice everything else. You can destroy the community of whole neighborhoods by taking away their neighborhood schools. You can you can even put students at risk--physically and educationally (for quite a number of reasons)--by placing them on buses for hours a day--all because of Equality and Diversity.

Equality and Diversity not only trump community, education, and safety, they even trump good government. Why was it exactly that judges had the authority to do this in the first place? Was there a Constitutional mandate for such things? Did a court even have a right to mandate it? Wasn't this the legislature's prerogative? Isn't there such a thing as separation of powers?

But these are all Constitutional questions, and the Constitution, like so many other things, has found itself hauled to the chopping block to be offered up in pieces to the gods of Equality and Diversity.

Where is the evidence that forced busing increases academic achievement? Not some goofy study with a handful of anecdotes that passes for scholarship in teachers colleges, but real honest to goodness research evidence that students get better grades or test scores when they are taken out of their neighborhood schools and set down in some other part of town whether parents like it or not.

Where is it?

Forced busing in Louisville did have one good result: it created a burgeoning private school community that thrives to this day. Of course, most of the students who attend private schools are from families who can afford it, leaving most of the kids from families who can't afford it in failing public schools. This could be changed, of course, by implementing school choice programs to make it more affordable for these families to take advantage of the better private schools, but the education establishment opposes this too. It's too bad that in their Equality and Diversity zealotry, liberals have harmed the very people they feel so good about having helped.

If we're really concerned with improving education, we'll do things that have been demonstrably successful. I was at in the Capitol Annex in Frankfort one day several years ago on the day that a round of CATS scores were being announced by state education officials. They were particularly proud, they said, about Lincoln Elementary School, which had increased its reading scores by about 65 percent, and its science scores by about the same amount. This, they said, was evidence that the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) was succeeding.

Now Lincoln Elementary is not known as good school. What had happened here? I walked out of the committee room and into the hallway. I called Lincoln Elementary and got through to the lady in charge of the reading program and asked, "What are you doing down there?" "We are doing Direct Instruction," she said. "We are teaching systematic, intensive phonics in our reading program."


Direct Instruction? Phonics? These things were anathema to the KERAites. Schools were being told to do exactly the opposite of what Direct Instruction called for. I heard officials testify before legislative committees running down traditional techniques like Direct Instruction, and attended some of the in-services where they were ridiculed. My oldest son was also in a "model KERA classroom" where the alternative ideas, like whole language and "best guess" spelling, were practiced (until we finally, like so many other parents, pulled him out).

But the fact that they had opposed the very programs that were the reasons for Lincoln Elementary's success wasn't preventing state officials from taking credit for it anyway.

Later on, I found out that Lincoln Elementary was one of three schools that had gotten a grant from the Jefferson County School District to implement Direct Instruction programs. That was big of them, I thought. As it turns out, the legislator who had managed to get the grants, Sen. Gerald Neal, had had to do everything but threaten the district (actually, I think he did that too) to get grants. Pulling teeth without Novocaine was apparently a less painful procedure for district officials than implementing a demonstrably good educational program.

Then just as quickly and quietly as the program had come, it apparently left, the victim of indifferent and even hostile district officials. Last I heard, they were talking about closing Lincoln Elementary. A program that actually worked, and they let it go. What does that say about our schools and the people who run them?

Well, if you look at KERA (the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990), you see the same idols: Equality and Diversity. Remember the nongraded primary program? We had to have young students of different ages and ability levels all mixed together in one class. Diversity. And we had to make sure that all students succeeded at the same level, even if the older ones had to take time out from learning themselves to help teach the younger ones. Equality.

The tragic thing about it all was that, as a result of this nonsense, ESS (Extended School Services) participation in 4th grade--after the nongraded primary had done its damage-- skyrocketed. What did the geniuses in our education establishment do? They hailed it as a success. That's right. More kids were now getting help. That was a good thing. Of course, they had been to education college, the academic equivalent of receiving a lobotomy, so they missed the fact that more kids now needed it, a sign that something had not worked.

The nongraded primary seems to have died a slow death, but that won't prevent the education establishment coming back with more ridiculous ideas any time now, undoubtedly founded on the same failed ideas.

That any children get a decent education in public schools at all in a system like this is a miracle. Some actually do get a good education, somehow escaping the ritualistic sacrifice demanded of so many at the liberal altar of Equality and Diversity, probably because of a few good teachers and administrators who still, despite the fact that they pay verbal obescience to the false gods of education, care about children and have some clue of what actually works.

My understanding is that Day was one of these, and that he somehow succeeded at Cassidy Elementary in the face of the KERA nonsense. As I recall, he was one of the few voices within the establishment brave enough to point out, on the issue of the nongraded primary, that the emperor had no clothes.

One only wishes, on the issue of busing, that he saw as clearly.

1 comment:

solarity said...

>> Berman, whose previous job was head of the 2,900 student Hudson, Mass., school district, said school diversity is important, but rejected the idea of neighborhood schools if it meant a return to segregated facilities.

“I’m not sure that’s a solution,” Berman said. “I’m not leaning in that direction and I’m not sure the board is leaning in that direction.” >>

So very, and sadly, predictable. The one solution that, if put to a vote, would be the overwhelming preference of the taxpayers, is the first solution to be eliminated by our professional educators.