Our Failing Public Schools

… freedom, from freedom to abundance, from abundance to complacency, from complacency to dependency, and from dependency back to bondage.

The original author of the adage is not known, but it matters little who said it. What matters is whether or not it is an immutable truth and whether or not American “exceptionalism” might allow us to bypass the ugliest stop on that continuum. I’ve struggled with that question since the day I first heard the adage and I still don’t have a clear answer.

However, if we draw a large circle on a blackboard or a flip chart and we write the words bondage, faith, hope, courage, freedom, abundance, complacency, and dependency at intervals along the perimeter, we can demonstrate a major difference between liberals and conservatives and between Republicans and Democrats. Conservatives and Republicans operate in the bondage-faith-hope-courage-freedom-abundance segment of the circle, at which point we learn why God created liberals and Democrats. It is they who control the abundance-complacency-dependency-bondage segment of the circle.

Conservatives and Republicans are builders of freedom and the human condition; liberals and Democrats are destroyers.

We can also place ourselves anywhere in the abundance-complacency-dependency segment of the circle and try to figure out how we can avoid passing through the bondage portion of the continuum, going directly to hope, courage, etc. That is by far the most interesting exercise because when we analyze why any nation, or any group of people, would allow themselves to be taken down the road from freedom and abundance to dependency and bondage, we always arrive at the same answer. So who or what is it that stands in the way of ever-positive growth?

Is it engineers? No, engineers are innovators, designers, and builders. They spend every waking moment thinking of ways to make life simpler, easier, and safer for everyone.

Is it scientists? No, scientists spend their lives probing into the darkest recesses of the unknown, concerning themselves not only with known unknowns, but with unknown unknowns, as well. Some of their discoveries are used for potentially evil purposes, such as nuclear weapons, but the vast majority of their discoveries have a positive impact on humanity.

Is it doctors and nurses? No, medical practitioners spend their lives curing disease, easing pain and suffering, and preserving human life.

Is it lawyers, judges, policemen, fire fighters, and the military? No. While they may not produce anything of a tangible nature, as the referees and traffic cops of our society they play a vital role in protecting the best of us from the worst of us and in protecting us all from harm.

Is it farmers and ranchers? No, farmers, ranchers, and food processors spend every waking hour growing and processing the foods that are needed to support human life.

Is it blue collar workers? No, it is blue collar workers who take the things that scientists and engineers discover and turn that knowledge into practical applications. Blue collar workers are the hand tools of human progress.

With but one exception, no matter where we look in civilized society we find people who are either builders or maintainers of civil society. That exception is the field of public education. No matter which societal problem we place under the microscope, the search for a solution… or the absence thereof… always takes us back to what it is that our people know and understand. It all comes back to the public schools, teachers unions, colleges and universities.

When people cannot properly read, write, and speak the English language, they are unable to take full advantage of the freedoms that are available to them. When people are inadequately schooled in mathematics and the sciences, they are unable to participate in the advancement of science and technology and it will be difficult for them to find a niche in a highly technological world. When people fail to understand the lessons of history, they are unable to make the political judgments necessary to avoid the mistakes of the past. When people have inadequate knowledge of politics and the workings of government, they are unable to make the political decisions necessary to advance the cause of freedom. And when people have an inadequate grasp of basic economics they are unable to properly assess the impact of taxes, savings, profits, and investments.

In all of these areas of physical and intellectual endeavor, our public education system is by far our greatest failing.

In an August 11, 2010 article for Townhall.com, titled “The Left’s Special-Interest Human Shields,” columnist Michelle Malkin gives us a clue as to why our public education system is the greatest failure among all our public institutions. Clearly, what has always been an important, necessary, and highly respected profession, has been transformed into just another cesspool of leftist union activism, just another mindless, lemming-like subsidiary of the Democratic Party.

Malkin’s attitude toward schoolteachers is not unlike that of most Americans. She says, “I have nothing against public-school teachers. My mother was one. My children are taught by some of the best in the nation. And over the years, I’ve reported on valiant battles between rank-and-file educators in government schools and their fat, bloated union leaders, who’ve transformed their professional organizations into wholly owned Democratic subsidiaries. My opposition to the so-called “Edujobs” bill stems not from meanness but from compassion for millions of dues-paying school employees being used as special-interest human shields.”

Looking into the faces of the teachers at your local public elementary school or high school… the “micro” view of public education… is not the same as taking a “macro” view of the teaching profession. Malkin quotes the DC-based Labor Union Report as saying that, in 2009, the National Education Association (NEA) “raked in a whopping $355,334,165 in ‘dues and agency fees’ from (mostly) teachers around the country.” And although the NEA spent close to $11 million more than it took in, it did not short-change the political parasites who rely on it for their sustenance. The NEA still found it possible to pour $50 million into “political activities and lobbying” for exclusively left-wing and partisan Democratic causes and candidates.

So, if excellence in education is not the first priority of the teachers union, what do they see as their top priority? The NEA’s retiring top lawyer, Bob Chanin, spoke to delegates at the NEA annual meeting in July. He made no bones about what is the union’s top priority. He said:

“Despite what some among us would like to believe, it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children, and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year, because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees. . . .

“This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing dropout rates, improving teacher quality and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary. These are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, and collective bargaining. That simply is too high a price to pay.”

Talk about upside-down priorities. As Barack Obama’s personal hero, Saul Alinsky, has said, teacher organizers must commit to a “singleness of purpose.” Not serving the needs of parents and children, but serving the “ability to build a (political) power base.” That they have done.

The Democratic Party is comprised of (in order of importance) teachers unions (NEA and AFT), trial lawyers, public employee unions, blue collar unions (AFL-CIO), radical environmentalists, minorities (blacks and Hispanics), service employee unions (SEIU), organized street agitators (ACORN), radical feminists, gays, lesbians, and the gender-confused community.

Yet, in spite of the fact that public school teachers are now ranked as the most politically powerful special interest in the nation, and in spite of the fact that we as a nation spend more on public education per pupil than any other industrialized nation, we find that among high school students in the 30 richest nations, U.S. students rank 17th in their knowledge of the sciences and 24th in their knowledge of mathematics. Clearly, our public education system is failing to prepare our children to compete in a highly technological world. It is our weakest link. It is the anchor on our Ship of State.

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