Monday, April 17, 2006
THIS WEEK: SPECIAL REPORT
ON THE CRISIS INVOLVING
THE FUTURE OF THE OMAHA PUBLIC SCHOOLS
AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF NEBRASKA EDUCATION
INTO “LEARNING COMMUNITIES”
THE BAD IDEAS
BEHIND THE OPS DEBACLE
First in a series.
Are you confused and perplexed about how the Nebraska Legislature and the Omaha Public Schools could have gotten us into such a horrendous pickle so quickly?
Are you embarrassed about national news stories ridiculing us as segregationists and back-water boobs?
Are you worried about the hastily-derived, unilaterally-created LB 1024 that is likely to set Omaha’s racial achievement gap in concrete, and further centralize and hyper-regulate Nebraska education in this era in which everybody else in the country is decentralizing and deregulating?
Well, you can trace a lot of it to the usual reason: bad ideas.
Stick with me, because it’s a bit of a long story, but I think this is what has happened:
I used to be embarrassed about the only “C” I ever got. It was in Economics 51 in college in the 1970s. I aced the first test, got a “B” on the midterm, and then flunked the final. It’s not that I didn’t study. I spent most of the semester trying my darndest to understand the professor and the textbook. Obviously, I never quite caught on to what they were trying to teach me.
And now I know why: that professor and that textbook were anti-capitalism and anti-free market. The economics they taught cast government as the answer to every problem, and the conceit that government should intervene in the lives and choices of individuals for the good of the whole.
Like the Presidents of the day, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, they were Keynesian – a little bit socialist, a little bit fascist, and a lot counter-intuitive.
They were based on the macroeconomics theory developed by British thinker John Maynard Keynes (pronounced “canes”), 1883-1946. His ideas spurred Roosevelt’s New Deal and the deeply entrenched ethic we have now in this country, that higher taxes and make-work public spending are the way to keep people employed and the economy alive, even though the services provided aren’t as good as the private sector could have provided, and everyone’s plunged into a bottomless pit of debt.
Keynesian economics spurs more activity by the government, not the private sector, and tends to create new problems that “force” government to keep spending and regulating more and more, displacing the private sector from its previous functions and responsibilities more and more.
Keynesian economics is why we are so deeply in debt with exploding government entitlement programs, levels of taxation that are becoming untenable for many people, a shrinking middle class, and so many marginalized people in this incredible land of plenty. We have these huge problems because we turned to Keynes and away from the free-market economics -- Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” -- that served as the framework for the American dream for the centuries before.
Keynes was the king of letting enormous public debt pile up with little or no worry about the impact on the generations to come, because, as this non-Christian ideologue said famously, “In the long run, we are all dead.”
In other words, screw your kids and grandkids, and live for today.
Of course, Keynes never had any kids to worry about. He was a homosexual / bisexual who apparently preyed sexually on low-income boys, including those of color. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, he operated among the rich, powerful, intellectual and artistic crowd. He advised the government, but got so frustrated with the “lesser minds” he had to deal with that he had a nervous breakdown. He was a gambler and a speculator, but most of all, he was very, very smart. He was part of the intellectually gifted but morally bankrupt Bloomsbury Group in England in the first third of this century, who practiced various sexual deviancies including “higher sodomy,” which is what you call homosexual relations with someone of equal intellectual status, along with forays into the underclass for sex-tinged excursions.
Keynesian economics is basically a perversion of the economics most of us believe in. It basically holds that:
-- The elite should be in charge because they’re smarter, and everybody else should just come along for the ride without any meaningful input into what happens. But of course, the masses should still shoulder the cost. It is playing out now as the educational infrastructure in this country has grown beyond most people’s wildest imaginations, voters know less and less about how the money is being spent and have less and less input into what and how the kids are taught, and elected school boards appear to be more and more just meaningless rubber stamps for the government employees in administration and bureaucracy.
-- Instead of outright government control as in Marxist systems, however, the control is in semi-autonomous corporate bodies operating within the framework of the State, similar to the medieval fiefdoms of Europe. Private ownership is not deemed able to keep us all afloat, but government wants to stop short of the obvious government power in communism. So a few people will be allowed at least the appearance of leadership and ownership within the tightly-controlled networked matrix of control. That’s where all these “public-private partnerships” are coming from, especially in education. Bigwigs get huge tax shelters by donating big bucks for more and more government control of education even though what the government is doing is not what’s best for children. Why? Because bigwigs agree with the Keynesians that, in the Information Age, the need for government control of the “means of production” has shifted from factories and farms, to “human capital” – what we used to call “people.”
-- The rich and powerful will put their kids in private schools to position them for those few opportunities for future leadership, while the hoi polloi have no choice but to put theirs in the centrally-controlled, dumbed-down, highly bureaucratic “local education agencies” (as they’re already called in England) that lead mostly to make-work and donkey work. There’s the appearance of local control in these LEA’s, but actually, they’re just local branches of a national government agency, like post office branches. Chillingly, “LEA’s” is the same term used in the America 2000, Goals 2000 and No Child Left Behind federal education legislation of the past 25 years for what we used to call “local public schools.”
-- To Keynesians, the group is more important than the individual, which is the opposite of the American philosophy. Group concepts such as “global interdependence,” “world citizenship,” “sustainable development,” “equity” and “tolerance” will overshadow “anachronisms” of U.S. history such as “national sovereignty,” “independence” and “inalienable rights.” Keynesians believe aggregate demand for goods and services should rule over individual choices, perceived needs and desires. Conformity rules over choice, and submission to the government’s imposed values over personal freedom of thought. It’s basically “the government’s way or the highway” in everything from school curriculum to gatekeeping for who gets into the “right” colleges and gets the best jobs.
-- Social control is better public policy than freedom, according to Keynesians. It’s an elitist mentality. It’s best to offer people a minimum of “choice” in areas that don’t really matter so that they’ll think they still live in freedom. To sustain this fiction, government must unify with the private sector to create “social control.”
No wonder I flunked the Econ final! All that stuff is the opposite of what I believe.
In the years since college, I learned more about what other economists have said, and realized that Keynes was pointing us toward a world bank, a single worldwide currency, and world socialism, while the free-market, laissez-faire economists whose ideas square better with what America is supposed to be, including Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises, were getting drowned out by the Big Government types.
So now what on Earth does this have to do with Nebraska’s big problem with LB 1024 and the OPS debacle?
Simply this: the ideology of the public figures responsible for that bill align with the Keynesian view of the world. By no means am I trying to say that their ethical and moral philosophies or actions dovetail with Keynes’; heaven forbid. But their views about government and economics apparently do. Think about it:
Sen. Ron Raikes of Lincoln, who holds a Ph.D. in agricultural economics and is the bill’s author, taught economics at Iowa State in the 1970s. I have a friend who was a student there then, and said Raikes was a Keynesian through and through.
Colleagues praise him for his ability to crunch numbers and understand the minutia of school-aid formulas and so forth. But there’s a down side to having a person with a mind shaped by the dreary principles of ag econ in charge of formulating public policy on education and what’s going to happen to other people’s children. Former State Sen. Deb Suttle once said the brainy Raikes was “too smart for his own good.”
He made enemies in the ongoing battle over shutting down Nebraska’s 200-plus K-6 country schools with tactics that Class I proponents believe distorted the facts about spending, academic achievement and racial balance in Class I schools, and spread unfounded rumors and misled other state senators and the public.
Even though he once attended a one-room school, Raikes’ policies have been moving toward centralized control and nationalization since he has been in the Legislature and served as Education Committee chairman.
Raikes has been active in the Denver-based Education Commission of the States (www.ecs.org), which is promulgating nationalized schools which align with a globalized curriculum and everything run by educrats, not educators. He also has been aligned with the National Council of Chief State School Officers (www.ccsso.org ), which has the same trajectory.
Raikes also has been involved with the increasingly-scary student data collection and assessment systems which are already in place in Nebraska, important components of the globalization and standardization process going on in the U.S. and around the world.
Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha is from a North Omaha district that is almost the polar opposite of Sen. Raikes’ rural Lancaster County one, in the context of racial makeup. Both represent about 35,000 people, but Chambers’ district is about 72% black, while Raikes’ is about two-thirds of 1% black. (See http://unicam.state.ne.us/districts/index.htm for demographics on each legislative district.)
So you wouldn’t think these two men would agree on the best way to achieve educational equality and racial justice in Omaha-area schools. But Sen. Chambers is an outspoken atheist who contends that children belong to the State, not their parents.
His brilliant but cynical mind turns more toward being a racial provocateur than doing what it actually takes to raise the educational attainment of low-income and minority children. Like Keynes and like Raikes, he apparently believes that bigger government is the answer.
All the attention has been focused onto the racial undertones of the current controversy, while the real danger – Raikes’ overarching “learning community” – can quietly be put in place and assumed to be the “answer.”
Chambers’ egoism was a fertile field in which the seeds of LB 1024 could grow, sucking the disadvantaged into the “learning community” where they can be controlled and kept down on the farm, while what the eduwonks contend they need to “sustain” all this unwieldy infrastructure will require a bumper crop of new taxes every year.
Other individuals and organizations whose backgrounds, philosophies and actions can only be termed Keynesian also had a hand in this, including Gov. Dave Heineman, State Education Commissioner Doug Christensen and the Nebraska State Education Association. We’ll talk more this week about their roles . . . and what they and others could do to help pull us out of this swamp.
Tuesday: the real deal on “learning communities.”
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