Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Wouldn’t it be dumb if we tried to prepare our military people for battling terrorists by giving them a bunch of self-esteem exercises instead of teaching them how to load and fire a gun?

A lot of people think that the lack of focus academically in our public schools these days, in favor of what’s called ‘’affective’’ education -- concentrating on children’s feelings and opinions -- is the equivalent of intellectually disarming our country for future battles of all kinds.

People care passionately about education. It is, and should be, a focal point in all kinds of elections this fall.

And longtime Nebraska education leader Kathy Wilmot of Beaver City reports from the Republican National Convention in New York City that the real Ground Zero has taught yet another lesson as the nation looks forward to the November presidential election and a referendum on our top priorities, including education.

Mrs. Wilmot, former member of the Nebraska State Board of Education and a delegate to the GOP convention, said she backs President Bush largely because she sees his education policy as having far more potential to return schools to local control and an academic focus than the Democrats would ever do.

In a telephone interview, Mrs. Wilmot said convention speakers have praised the federal education bill, No Child Left Behind. But they may not be aware that Democratic left-wingers such as Ted Kennedy had a lot to do with its provisions dating ‘way back to the 1980s and the America 2000 / Goals 2000 push to institute a nationalized education system in the United States.

Still, the accountability it offers parents on what children are actually learning in school is a step in the right direction, she said. It is exposing many of the shortcomings of the education system which have been allowed to be covered up for far too long, she said.

A legacy of the Clinton Administration and Democratic control of education bureaucracies is that in the 1990s, schools were changed into mini social service centers instead of centers of academics, Mrs. Wilmot said. The GOP is in the process of reversing that course.

‘’I’d like to see our schools go back to local control and a strict emphasis on academics,’’ she said. ‘’For example, we shouldn’t be doing any assessment of our students on attitudes, values, beliefs and personalities. We need to get all of that out of the academic mix. Standards should be set by local districts. Let local teachers decide what’s needed.’’

She said Nebraska’s multiple assessment system, championed by Nebraska Education Commissioner Doug Christensen, is the wrong approach. It has far too much ‘’embedded psychometrics’’ – basically, value judgments -- woven into the assessments that have nothing to do with academics. Besides, the assessments aren’t true tests of knowledge and skills. They measure the student’s future worth in the marketplace, basically.

The system ought to be disbanded, she said. ‘’It’s cost us beaucoup bucks, it’s cumbersome and it’s taking teachers out of the classroom for days and weeks out of the year,’’ she said. ‘’It flies in the face of local control.’’

She said Democratic nominee John Kerry is likely to lead schools further away from academics and more toward a nationalized, Politically Correct, nonacademic, socialistic approach to K-12 education, which she opposes.

‘’I also believe John Kerry would pull us out of Iraq,’’ Mrs. Wilmot said. ‘’It’s amazing to me how the liberals are all saying we went to war for nothing. Well, our hotel is just one block from Ground Zero. I wish they could come walk down this street and smell the sickening smell of wet ashes -- three years later -- and see that hole in the ground, and tell me we weren’t attacked. What they’re saying is demeaning to the memory of all those people who died. What we’re fighting is an ideology, and to quit fighting it is to concede defeat. That, I know, is never the wish of the American people.’’

Mrs. Wilmot maintains a website as a public service with content on education and other key issues. She plans to update it upon her return from the convention. Visit www.kathywilmot.com

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