Monday, August 27, 2012

Race to the Top - Shame on Us!

(If you are relatively new to this site, I welcome you and invite you to read Review and Refresher from November 28, 2011.  It provides a good summary of the intention and direction of these short essays.)

Now, let’s talk about education and responsibility.  The Federal Government has (yet another) education program called Race to the Top.  The idea was to award (with our tax money) $4 billion in grants to states that undertook ambitious education reforms.  A related program set up grants encouraging some of the poorest school districts to compete for almost $400 million.

In America where about 40% of students and their parents live within 2 miles of their school, we let the Federal Government, hundreds of miles away, set standards for these contests, for teacher reviews, for academic achievement and even for lunch menus.  Aren’t we the customers of those schools?  Aren’t we in a better position to demand results from those schools?  If we didn’t get the products or services we expected from our local store, bank or car dealer, would we sit around for years waiting for the government to try to fix it with one program after another?  I don’t think so.  We would go down and have a talk with them the next day, talk to the manager or write to the company headquarters.  But in this case, we seem to have abdicated our responsibility for our own children’s education, by turning the problem over to an administrative exercise between our state capitol and Washington.   Parental involvement also must not be limited to automatically taking the side of the child against the teacher when there's trouble, rather it must come from a sincere interest in the child's education. 

Isn’t it strange that when the high school football team puts together a string of losing seasons, parents scream for changes, not waiting on a higher authority to recommend standards and reviews.  Yet if some of the same schools graduate children who can’t read, write or add, it’s left to bureaucrats hundreds or thousands of miles away to legislate a fix.  Why do we tolerate this situation?  It's just another example of what I’ve said many times before:  When we don’t exercise our responsibility, the answers are dictated to us, and we give up a little more of our freedom.

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