Friday, September 21, 2007

Reform run amok

Andrew Ferguson looks at education reform in America, and also at some books about education, in the Weekly Standard article No Child Left Alone. The subhead is "An education reform run amok."

An excerpt:

Reformers are busy people, tireless people, whose displeasure with the world as it is inspires them to improve the lives of their fellow human beings no matter what, and they get cranky when you bring up the law of unintended consequences. They dislike the implication that the benefits they confer in one field might lead to a shrinking of benefits in another. Yet the decline in attendance at Laurie Verge's wonderful little museum is, indeed, an unintended consequence of NCLB--just one of many, and a small one at that. Though no one thought of it in the long, sweaty hours while the bill was being written, or mentioned it in the self-congratulatory giddiness surrounding its final passage, NCLB's exclusive emphasis on reading and math has led a high percentage of schools (around 40 percent, according to one recent survey) to cut back on the teaching of history, civics, and government to the country's schoolchildren.

The irony here is hard to avoid: Republicans, who used to lament the rising tide of "historical illiteracy," have now reformed the nation's schools in such a way that can only swell the tide. But there are lots of ironies in Big Government Conservatism. Luckily for us, a handful of new books provides an opportunity to think about NCLB and its many consequences--and, by extension, to ask the question: So how's this Big Government Conservatism thing working out for us?

Meanwhile, over at, Dennis Prager looks at current problems in education from another angle, in his column Why the Left Has Changed Journalism, Education and the Courts.

As the title says, the column is about more than education. An excerpt:

The question, then, is not whether the left has had such an impact, but why.

I learned a major part of the answer years ago in Idaho where I was the moderator of a panel of judges -- including a past California Supreme Court justice -- and lawyers connected to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. I asked the panel members to give their view of the role of judges. The response of the liberal former California Supreme Court justice opened my eyes to the left's view of virtually everything in society.

He said that the purpose of a California Supreme Court justice, and for that matter, every judge, is to fight economic inequality and racism in society. I responded that I thought the one purpose of a judge was to render justice in the courtroom.

I might as well have responded in biblical Hebrew (that's where I got the idea of a judge's role anyway): He and the other liberals on the panel reacted as if I had offered a new and original notion of judges' roles.

Because the left views the purpose of judges as furthering a social agenda that transcends justice in the courtroom, the judicial process has been distorted for decades...

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