Friday, May 21, 2004


I don’t have a good enough handle on how Nebraskans feel about the academic underachievement of our underclass -- low-income African-American, Latino and Native American schoolchildren. I hope they’re as mad about it as I am. What seems to bring positive change is public passion and the political pressure that comes with it.

Two news items converge on this point:

First, in Minnesota, the socialist-tinged DFL party (Democrats/Farmers/Laborers) in the state senate perpetrated an act of ‘’political brutality,’’ according to the watchdog website www.edwatch.org and gave the gong this week to Minnesota Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke.

It also slipped into place, through back-door dealings literally in the dead of night, new K-12 state science and social studies standards that the legislators hadn’t had time to read and understand.

The good news is, the social studies ones are a little bit better than the icky, nationalized Profile of Learning ones that Ms. Yecke did such a good job of exposing and eradicating.

However, the new ones have their own warts: the science standards fail to mandate what the vast majority of the public wants, which is balance in science education. The public wants the teaching of all sides of scientific controversies such as the flaws of the theory of evolution. Instead, the railroaded Minnesota science standards, like Nebraska’s recently-adopted ones, perpetuate the academic censorship and blatant bias of the pro-evolution textbooks and curriculum still in use in our classrooms, ignoring the mountains of contrary evidence.

Also, the social studies standards are faulted for: a failure to teach about national sovereignty; giving a negative picture of America; presenting all cultures as equally beneficial; coloring attitudes with tinges of Marxism; placing personal subjective experience on a higher plane than objective, verifiable facts, and putting a lot of good historical content into the ‘’optional’’ category, so that teachers with a leftist, radical agenda can get away with omitting it. That’s exactly what statewide standards are supposed to prevent. TOLD you standards were no good.

Sigh, sigh, sigh. But . . . sometimes, when things get bad, the good people get going. Maybe this ‘’coup’’ will serve as a great wake-up call for the parents and taxpayers of Minnesota, and they’ll put it to the educrats and union-bought politicians by moving their kids to private schools en masse. That’s the action that I hope for in Nebraska — financial aid and private scholarships for disadvantaged kids to get them into private schools, where that achievement gap being perpetuated by the public schools can best be closed.

That brings up the second news item, from www.family.org:

A new policy group called the ‘’Alliance for School Choice’’ has formed to give minorities a better chance at a quality education. The group's president, Clint Bolick, says 50 years after the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which desegregated schools, serious
educational and racial gaps remain.

‘’We've tried everything, it seems,’’ he said, ‘’except transferring power over basic educational decisions from bureaucrats to parents.’’

The answer to the ever-growing educational problem, he added, is school choice -- through private school vouchers and other programs.

‘’It offers an educational life preserver to children who desperately need it,’’ he said. ‘’And in places where we have school-choice programs, the academic and the graduation gap have narrowed.’’

Virginia Walden-Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, which fought for and got school choice for parents in Washington, D.C., agreed.

‘’It's just terribly vital that we offer all kinds of options to parents,’’ she said. ‘’And as we've seen from a really incredible response from parents in D.C., parents that are interested in alternatives for their children, this is much needed.’’

The National Education Association declined to be interviewed on this topic.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: In ‘’School Choices: What's Best For Your Child,’’ the author Jan Sheble offers the pros and cons of three choices: home school, Christian school and public school.

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