There has been, for some time now, optimism about a post-Covid recovery for American public school students, but sadly, there is no good news to be had.
Looking through a long lens, government-run education has been an enterprise rife with failure. The National Commission on Excellence in Education released a report in 1983 titled “A Nation at Risk,” which used dire language, asserting that “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and a people.”
In his latest offensive to rid Florida’s educational system of revolutionary Marxism, Governor Ron DeSantis announced what amounts to a new direction for one of the most liberal educational institutions in the state: the New College of Florida. DeSantis appointed a slew of new trustees to the college, including the anti-Marxist journalist Christopher Rufo, Claremont Review of Books Editor and political scientist Charles R. Kesler, and Matthew Spalding of Hillsdale College. The president of the New College, Patricia Okker, appeared before the board and said that she could not cooperate with the board or with DeSantis’ plan for the institution, and she was promptly terminated.
Historically, the Federal Government had limited involvement in Public Education. That changed in 1965 when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) into law.
ESEA doubled federal expenditures for K-12 education and gave the federal government much more input into education. That has been the debate ever since, central control of education versus state/local control.
During the last few years, most conservatives have become at least dimly aware that leftist ideology, in the guise of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), has infected public education. It’s unlikely, however, that many Americans realize just how far the disease has advanced. It has long since spread beyond a few courses embedded into the social studies curricula of secondary schools and elite colleges. Public school students as young as 9 and 10 years of age effortlessly recite leftist shibboleths even as they descend into functional illiteracy in reading, writing, math, and science.
A recent viral video from the YouTube channel Fleccas Talks showed several man-on-the-street interviews testing young people in New York City on their knowledge of basic facts. Some of the questions focused on American history and civics, while others were simple, numerical-based ones. The results were depressing, as the following samples demonstrate:
At its founding, American K-12 public education was meant to prepare young people to be active participants in our democratic republic. That should still be its highest purpose, especially when it comes to teaching civics.
Historically, public schools held fast to the principle that effective education must be non-partisan. Knowing they had great power to influence young minds, teachers used to be careful to choose content and pedagogies that restricted their ability to impose their personal political views on schoolchildren.
Today, maintaining non-partisanship is more important than ever in classrooms. Sadly, it’s increasingly dishonored. Civics has become a hot-button issue of late, particularly after remote learning allowed more parents to see what their children were actually being taught. Many were not happy with what they saw, and the debate over civics education is symptomatic of the larger divide that has become such a looming threat to American society.
Sometimes we need time to pass and distance to extend to gain fuller perspective on what we did not see contemporaneously from too close. Indeed, G-d tells Moses that no person can see His face (which I teach as meaning an up-close encounter) and live, but people can see the back of G-d’s head (which I teach as meaning a more distant previous encounter, growing ever more distant). See Exodus 33:18-23.
In their October 22, 2012, debate, Obama mocked GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney for expressing concern about Russia and Vladimir Putin:
Gov. Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that al Qaeda is a threat because a few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia. The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.
Schools throughout the country are experiencing teacher shortages due to several factors. In some states, legislatures have responded by lowering substitute teaching standards. In others, schools are calling on parents to fill the gap or are simply closing schools because they don’t have enough staff.
School choice advocates say it’s time to start funding students instead of government-run public school systems.
Nationwide, according to Burbio.com’s school closure tracker, 7,164 schools were “actively disrupted (not offering in-person learning) on one or more days during the week beginning January 10th.” Accompanying the tracker is a map, which shows which schools nationwide are closed or are providing no in-person instruction by day and week. The site, an industry leader in aggregating school, government, library and community information, tracks school closures and mask policies.