Education Secretary Rod Paige may have used a poor choice of words by calling National Education Association lobbyists "terrorists" at the governor's conference February 23, 2004, however, Paige was correct when he insisted that the NEA's "Washington lobbyists" have been waging a campaign of "obstructionist scare tactics."
Over the past four decades the education establishment recklessly experimented with public education to such an extent that generations of students have been robbed of their education. Yet, any and all attempts to correct or improve public education have been met with fierce resistance, regardless of the urgency and need for real reform.
California has a long history of costly obstructionist scare tactics, including the defeat of two school voucher initiatives, wherein signature gatherers were surrounded by militant teachers from the California Teachers Association union (an affiliate of the NEA) to prevent voters from signing petitions throughout the state. Costly smaller classes didn't work -- never have. Still, selfish interests want $billions more to subsidize a grossly incompetent system.
Thwarting democracy is bad enough, but it is unconscionable to allow the education establishment and teachers unions to perpetuate failed education, at taxpayers expense, while they relentlessly demand that more dollars be thrown into what has become the public education money pit. Political "third rail" or not, it's simply wrong for our children's future and it threatens the survival of our society.
Jacques Derrida: The French Infection
The L.A. Times October 10, 2004 full page obituary on Jacques Derrida, who died October 8, 2004, was informative. Indeed, putting a name with the founder of the controversial Deconstruction movement should be enlightening to the uninformed, simply because it answers a core question about who is largely responsible for the destructive decline of America's education and culture.
In 1966, Derrida stunned American academia with a speech introducing deconstruction to the United States with an analysis intended to turn Western philosophy inside out. Derrida's doctrine promoted the idea that all values are baseless and that nothing is knowable or can be communicated. It rejects all distinctions in moral value, constituting a willingness to refute all previous theories of morality. And it instills the belief that destruction of existing political and social institutions is necessary for future improvement. Nihilism in every respect, which was the Communist movement in Russia that accomplished its goals by assassination and terrorism.
Derrida lectured at Yale in the 1970's and influenced the "Yale School of Critics," which included Johns Hopkins English professor J. Hillis Miller, who after being recruited by UC Irvine in 1986, shifted the center of deconstruction to the West Coast. By then, the nihilistic deconstruction infection had spread throughout higher education. Carrying his briefcase of Marxism with him, Derrida became a professor of humanities at UC Irvine and taught one quarter per year until 2003. He also maintained his post as a professor of philosophy in Paris.
Derrida's Deconstruction philosophy rejects and dismantles all Western philosophy, traditions and institutions. Even worse, it has infected higher education with the idea that there is no truth, which is the basis of deconstructing our history and literature, then reconstructing it to satisfy so-called free thinkers.
French President Jacques Chirac glorified Derrida's life by saying, "With him, France has given the world one its greatest contemporary philosophers, one of the major figures of intellectual life of our time. Through his work, he sought to find the free movement which lies at the root of all thinking," Surely, Chirac put his finger on the root of what is wrong with much of modern intellectual thought.
Crispin Sartwell's October 12, 2004 Times commentary, "The Man Who Defied Words," wrote, "By the 1980's, Derrida's influence was pervasive, particularly in the literature departments of universities. Sartwell summed up Derrida's deconstruction as follows: "Words subvert their own meanings, and every text, ultimately, undermines itself, betrays itself, parodies itself, collapses on itself."
Certainly, Jacques Derrida's life spelled the death of Western literature in education, and the demise of common sense in intellectual thought.
Scrap Public Education and Privatize
The growing number of teachers who send their kids to private schools must know they haven't time for education to fix itself. Indeed, a glaring symptom of public education's failure is the rapid increase in home-schooling. Some estimates indicate there are nearly 2 million home-schooled children. Still, firmly entrenched problems go much deeper, and real reform cannot be accomplished by such things as expanding charter school choice and teacher merit pay.
First, it must be clearly understood that public education problems were caused by the progressive education revolution, which began in the 1960's. The revolution resulted in decades of failures of good intentions, and factories of ignorance, which robbed generations of students of their education. Examples include sacrificing core education standards in favor of programs such as social promotion, outcome-based education and grade inflation.
Highly qualified, dedicated teachers notwithstandinq, another severe long term problem has been teachers being trained how to teach with little knowledge of what to teach, as was aptly pointed out by education authority Rita Kramer in her 1991 book, Ed School Follies: The Miseducation of America's Teachers. After her in-depth study of departments of education in colleges and universities, Kramer concluded, method without content equals ignorance. She said, "It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion."
Finally, the empire-building education establishment has become too bureaucratic, too powerful, and too reform-resistant, simply because so-called education reform that began over 40 years ago was recklessly experimental and it created the monster. Common sense should tell us that the only way to save the public education system is to scrap it, and replace it with privatized, competitive education, which would result in the best education for our children, at half the cost
Grading the SAT
Published in the March 28, 2005 issue
U.S. News & World Report
I agree with the effort to improve the SAT in the areas of math, reading, and writing. However, I support high school graduation exams and the suggestion to combine those exams with college admissions tests. This would focus the attention of students where it belongs: on their courses.
As for the SAT timed essay: Replacing word analogy questions with a handwritten essay test is a bad idea. Objective results are difficult to measure. Giving students 25 to 50 minutes to digest the topic, organize their thoughts, and then write a persuasive essay cannot measure written communication skills, especially in the age of word processors.
Daniel B. Jeffs
Apple Valley, CA
Published in the Daily Press March 18, 2005
Exit exams no place for timed essays
California's 1999 state education reform package includes long overdue high school exit exams, but the testing has been delayed by those who have put selfish interests first, robbing students of their education.
I support the practice of high school graduation exams and the suggestion to combine those exams with college admissions tests. Focus the attention of students where it belongs, on core proficiencies.
As an author and former college instructor, I learned that preparing tests is the most difficult part of teaching, particularly when tests are supposed to be valid, reliable and designed to measure what is expected. I agree with the effort to improve the new SAT college admission test in the areas of math and reading and writing.
However, I disagree with the timed essay test. Replacing stupid word analogy questions with timed, handwritten essay tests is replacing one bad idea with another, wherein objective results are immeasurable, unreliable and invalid under the unrelenting pressure of testing conditions. Certainly, giving students 25 or even 50 minutes to read and digest the topic, organize their thoughts, and then write a persuasive essay cannot measure written communication skills, especially in this age of word processors.
Clearly, the need to improve students' writing skills is important to their future. However, writing skills can only be measured when students are given competent instruction and the time they need to compose writing at their own speed, which will naturally improve the more they write. Evaluating writing skills written under the pressure of testing is meaningless.