Thursday, May 04, 2006


You know how you come to a point where you have to fish, or cut bait? Well, I’ve got my pole and my lucky hat and am ready to go.

I’m ready to leave the public education mess behind me. Our third daughter graduates from a public high school in a few days, and our “whoopsie daisy” is in kindergarten in a private school, where we intend to keep her, so my motivation to watchdog the public schools is graduating and moving on, too.

But I’m not giving up just for personal reasons. It’s because I’ve lost hope that the public schools can be fixed.

I’ve watched the standards and assessments pushed by State Education Commissioner Doug Christensen wreak havoc with academics. I hate the Political Correctness and “values-neutral” philosophy that is screwing up so many kids’ hearts. I hate the state data collection system that’s being in put in place that’s scary and nosy. I hate seeing so many good teachers growing increasingly frustrated and disappointed.

I’m afraid Humpty can’t be put back together again, and after giving it my best shot for 15 years, I’m tired of trying. I wish those who still believe there’s hope for the system rots o’ ruck. But sayonara, Baybee.

After making endorsements in education-related political races Friday, I’ll move Go Big Ed stories to weekly, and they’ll come to you on Tuesdays from now on. I’ll probably write about public education once a month, and private schools and homeschooling the other weeks. I’ll archive those weekly stories on
www.GoBigEd.com, and will try to put more facts and figures on the website so that it’ll be of service to you in the future.

But I’m out of here, mainly because I can’t see that the same people who got us in to all these problems are able to get us out of them. And they won’t listen to anybody who can think outside the box. I’ve seen them deliberately block just about every idea that might help – phonics-only reading instruction, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, alternative certification for inner-city teachers. . . .

So I give up on even trying to get school choice in Nebraska. I don’t think the educrats, particularly Commissioner Christensen, would let it succeed. And he has effectively hog-tied the State Board of Education, which supposedly bosses him, so again, rots o’ ruck there.

I’m going to dedicate Go Big Ed from now on to building up our private schools, fostering more of them to open up in various forms, and helping people of all demographic groups get their kids into them.

I feel sad about this. I feel like a failure. I’m usually an optimistic and idealistic person. But in my old age, when it comes to Nebraska’s public education system, I’ve become a cynic. Three things have ruined my interest in, and support of, public education:

OPM Disease – since public schools have an unstoppable IV to siphon off “Other People’s Money,” there’s no way to force them to be cost-effective.

Mean and Nasty Disease – the cruel and often false things that are being said on all sides of the OPS and Class I controversies have just wrung out of me any interest in dealing with people who could be so heartless. And dang! They’re in charge of our KIDS!

Myth-Information Disease – it’s shocking how many educators and public figures are operating on false assumptions, faulty data, claptrap and propaganda, but don’t even know it, and when you point it out, instead of being glad, they get insulted, bonk you, and keep on keepin’ on.

Now, I went to journalism school in Missouri, the “Show Me” state. It gave me a healthy sense of skepticism, fine-tuning my Baloney Meter. I can’t sing, can’t dance, can’t sew, can’t juggle . . . but most of the time, I can spot a falsehood a mile away.

And through the many years I’ve been observing K-12 education, I’ve seen a peck of them, many of which are now at the boiling point in the LB 1024 / Omaha Public Schools breakup / Class I country schools annihilation controversies in Nebraska.

Education writer Jay P. Greene listed many of them in his great new book, “Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools – And Why It Isn’t So.” Here they are, from his table of contents, with the “myth” summarized in a one-liner, each of which Greene thoroughly demolishes in his book:

The Money Myth – Schools perform poorly because they need more money.

The Special Ed Myth – Special education programs burden public schools, hindering their academic performance.

The Myth of Helplessness – Social problems like poverty cause students to fail; schools are helpless to prevent it.

The Class Size Myth – Schools should reduce class sizes; small classes would produce big improvements.

The Certification Myth – Certified or more experienced teachers are substantially more effective.

The Teacher Pay Myth – Teachers are badly underpaid.

The Myth of Decline – Schools are performing much worse than they used to.

The Graduation Myth – Nearly all students graduate from high school.

The College Access Myth – Nonacademic barriers prevent a lot of minority students from attending college.

The High Stakes Myth – The results of high-stakes tests are not credible because they’re distorted by cheating and teaching to the test.

The Push-Out Myth – Exit exams cause more students to drop out of high school.

The Accountability Burden Myth – Accountability systems impose large financial burdens on schools.

The Inconclusive Research Myth – The evidence on the effectiveness of vouchers is mixed and inconclusive.

The Exeter Myth – Private schools have higher test scores because they have more money and recruit high-performing students while expelling low-performing students.

The Draining Myth – School choice harms public schools.

The Disabled Need Not Apply Myth – Private schools won’t service disabled students.

The Democratic Values Myth – Private schools are less effective at promoting tolerance and civic participation.

The Segregation Myth – Private schools are more facially segregated than public schools.

See how many of these are at play in Nebraska’s ongoing ed crises? I’ve harped on many of these myths in the few years I’ve had my Go Big Ed blog. But it’s made diddly squat worth of difference. But oh, well: at least I tried.

Last, but not least, I read this review of an education book by a really wonderful radio guy named Marlin Maddoux, published posthumously, which put some things in “macro” perspective for me and spurred me to give up on public ed:


So that’s the way it is, from Mount Laundry. I’ll do those endorsements Friday, and then your inbox will only be padded with a Go Big Ed story once a week from now on.

Thanks for all those who’ve helped me and supported me. I really hope you’ll join me in building up private education in the Cornhusker State . . . and keeping our focus on what’s best for kids.

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