Wednesday, August 30, 2006

By local, you mean the Republican party?

In his "Wow, look at how great we've done with restoring the Gulf Coast and New Orleans" speech this week, el presidente took special note of the resurrection of the schools in New Orleans. He pointed out the presence of charter schools in NO--without mentioning recent studies that appear to show that charter schools do no better but perhaps worse than old-fashioned public schools while removing education from at least some of the traditional oversight.
This was part of his point about the schools in NO, namely that we need more local control in education. In some respects I am sympathetic with the idea behind local control of resources, though I am suspicious of local control of some aspects of education--it's just such local control that causes Kansas' science curriculum to change every election cycle, as the state school board goes from fundamentalist to rationalist and back again.
But, for Bush to call for more local control of schools is laughable. This isn't the Reagan presidency, with its promise of doing away with or at least eviscerating the Department of Education. This is the President of No Child Left Behind, one of the biggest unfunded mandates of recent memory, a program that tells the states that they have to institute more testing, more remedial programs and that they have to pay for it themselves.
Local control? Actually, a lot more centralization. Mentioning local control might please those in his base in favor of parochial and other private schools but, apart from voucher programs there has been a lot more centralization of education policy in Washington.
And, now, his Department of Education wants to do for higher education what it did for elementary and secondary schools, mandatory standardized testing (pretty much unworkable in any case, unless it tests only the most basic, i.e., high-school level, parts of the education)--to replace the local control we now have through faculty, boards of directors and regents, legislatures (in some cases) and the ability of students to vote with their dollars.
It used to be that the GOP was the party of less government. It was pretty much the only thing that was appealing about it. Bush has shown his ability to resuscitate that libertarian rhetoric, but there's nothing local in the kind of control his policies have instituted.

1 comment:

Tyler Hower said...

Though I'm not sure why he should care even about that. After all, as our commander in chief, his hands cannot be tied in any respect. Moreover, anyone who says otherwise is a traitor and a supporter of fascism. It's true; I heard it.