Thursday, August 17, 2006


Here's a neat letter to the editor from someone on my favorite ed listserv. He's from North Carolina, and sees through the slick presentation of the handsome, likeable new superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School District. That new educrat is basically calling for a toothless "learning community" as we're getting in the Omaha metro area -- the circling of the wagons of the entrenched educracy -- to enforce the status quo and keep poor kids down, rather than innovating in a meaningful way.

Charlotte-Mecklenberg is more than three times the size of the Omaha Public Schools, and was the first district in the country to undergo court-ordered busing because of the yawning racial achievement gap. Omaha soon followed suit after a similar lawsuit forced the issue.

Today, Charlotte-Mecklenberg's inner-city kids are languishing while its suburban kids are doing OK, just as in Omaha. The racial gap is, if anything, even wider. And just as in Omaha, the "solutions" being promulgated to help the inner-city kids all come from slick-talkin' but do-nothin' educrats like this new superintendent.

Anybody who suggests a better way -- involving the private sector, competition and the paring down of the educracy -- gets stomped on and snuffed out. There, as here, people suggested deconsolidation, private scholarships to private schools for needy kids, and dividing up the troubled schools among several suburban districts to try to share the load more evenly, instead of just throwing more money and staff at the problem. There, as here, the new ideas were quashed by the educracy.

Same old, same old. And yet the solution is right there, staring us in the face, both places: private-sector initiatives.

At least this fellow tells it like it is. Rarely does Nebraska get this quality of discourse in our education-related mass media. Sigh.

Letter, August 16, 2006
Raleigh News & Observer

I have a different take on Charlotte's energetic and appealing new school superintendent, Peter Gorman, than does Rick Martinez ("Riding herd on Charlotte schools," Aug. 9 column).

The appealing theme of Gorman's maiden column in the Charlotte Observer was "we must work together. All of us." That sounds good, but the unwelcome truth is that Gorman's is a collectivist vision of how excellence is be achieved.

The genius of American success in all fields but schooling is the scope this singular country gives to individual initiative. What serves the nation and what would serve education is competition. Not "working together." But that is an idea that Charlotte and, for that matter, North Carolina are not yet willing to embrace.

There will come a day, however, when all central-planning, top-down, no-customer-feedback, no-incentive, one-size-fits-all models for providing education will be seen for what they are: prescriptions for frustration and failure.

Tom Shuford

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