Saturday, January 7, 2012

7 January 2012 It was as if a pall descended over the land

          Actually, that should be “It will be as if a Paul descended over the land.”
          Paul spearheads the demand to dissolve the Dept of Education.  The GOP/teavangelists can’t heap enough hatred upon this cabinet department.  They continue to scream for local school systems controlled by local communities, meeting standards for educational achievement established by the states. 
          Any time I hear “states’ rights” I know I’m going to become disgusted and nauseated.  I know to a certainty that it is going to involve an attempt to roll back the calendar to the era of debtor’s prisons, sweatshops, indentured servitude, and limited literacy.  Company stores and sharecropping have moved indoors and are now found at Wal-marts nationwide.
          But the most alarming “states’ rights” danger is that aimed at education.  We had a great thing going during our early 20th century.  We had free public education for all children.  Until WWII, many of our children ended their schooling at 8th grade.  However, they learned to write and read, perform business math, and some then learned trades while others joined the ranks of commerce or prepared for universities. 
          The caliber of education varied with the locale.  My maternal grandmother had to leave home and stay with relatives in order to complete high school.  She then became a teacher in a one-room school in very rural S.E. Missouri.  She was barely 18 when she began teaching.  Most of her students quit school after 8th grade.  They were destined to stay on the family farm or work in one of the nearby market towns.  My mother won a scholarship in the Army Nurse Cadet Corps that took her out of her rural background and led her to becoming an R.N. at Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.  That escape eventually landed me in a small city with university as a goal for nearly 50% of my high school classmates. 
          The critical point is local expectations and community support.  Our students no longer live and die within 10 kilometers of their birthplaces.  They no longer work in an environment that is content with mediocrity and homogeneity.   They must compete not only with local students but also with students from around the globe. 
          Other nations have made the jump to national standards for education.  They don’t allow goals and standards to be set at the lowest common denominator.  A situation such as we have today is not acceptable in other industrialized nations.  We’ve opted for mediocrity and it shows in our ability to compete with China, Japan, India, Germany, Canada, and other nations for control of the modern world.  The nation that put men on the moon is now gone.  We’re sliding backward on the scale of excellence.  50 states’ standards provide us with the problem of creating 49 more copies of Mississippi.  We don’t need that, but the demand for local control of school boards and curricula will surely take us there.  Let the local demand for prayer in school, creationism rather than science, and for revisionist history such as Texas has opted to teach become the norm; we’ll never set foot on the moon again.  But Wal-mart will be hiring part-times with no benefits.  Sweatshops and fast foods anyone?

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