How to answer a liberal…
From Mark Steyn’s mailbox, an excellent example of a liberal trying to muddle the issue and missing the primary criticism, and Mr. Steyn’s politically incorrect response:
Read your recent "Jo Biden Teachable Moment" essay. True, Vice Presidents and their selected quotes are often even easier targets than Presidents. Ask Dan Quayle. The task of taking Biden’s words to a group of school children trying to explain his point of view… and then using that somewhat simplistic narrative as "policy gospel" was easy pickings. Just not necessarily accurate gospel.
What has been happening (sometimes, more accurately, what’s not happening) with funding for public education locally, as well as at the state national levels over the years, is pathetic.
No Child Left Behind, which was formulated based upon a series of exaggerations and lies (Sound familiar? Think WMDs. Same "brain trust.") regarding public education in Texas (The widely debunked "Houston Miracle") has gone a long way towards wasting precious resources in both money and educator talent. More like Plenty of Children Left Behind… married to No Tax Dollars Left Behind.
Here in Pennsylvania, former Republican Governor Ridge (before Rendell), wasted enormous resources chasing very unpopular voucher programs which were constantly rejected by a vast majority of state voters. New Republican Governor, Corbett, has again picked up this dubious, mostly for-profit voucher legislation, and is pushing it mightily despite the fact that poll after poll, study after study, across all of PA and the country, shows no real educational benefits of vouchers.
Moreover, virtually 2/3s of Pennsylvania’s population is opposed using public tax dollars for sending kids to private and/or parochial schools.
Not to mention the unconstitutionality issue of using public tax dollars in an often thinnly-veiled attempt to prop up struggling religious schools.
State and federal net funding for public schools has dramatically shrunk over the years… not just during these tough economic times… and that support is still shrinking…. exacerbated by increasing and costly state and federal unfunded mandates. And, at least in PA, the state actually has a budget surplus.
So, we can take pot shots at a Vice President’s speech to some school children, or we can get serious… and take more meaningful shots at politicians in State Capitols and in Washington who seem far more invested in smearing and stonewalling their opposition than they are in supporting adequate financial support for our public schools.
There are many successful, high-functioning schools and school districts in our country. I happen to live in one. But there are also many struggling schools and school districts. I happen to live "across the street" from one. It’s not the kids faults. It is, to a great extent, the fault of those adults who would rather play politics with the future of our children than to responsibly address their needs. Like smoking political crack, partisan rhetoric may feel good for a moment, but does not replace the hard, day-to-day work of tackling the education of all our children with all their needs. In fact, such partisan rhetoric, when it continuously stalemates unselfish, real educational solutions, is as destructive to generations of students as is poverty… or drugs.
In the end, the real decision people will have to make is, do we want to again start committing adequate resources to our public schools? Or do we want to build more and bigger prisons.
Our adults should know better. Our kids deserve better.
David Rackow, Board of School Directors, School District of Cheltenham Township
C’mon, man, you’re a big-time educrat on a "Board of School Directors" and the best you can do is a Dan Quayle dig? With the benefit of your fine education, you’re not even up to a Charles Gates Dawes crack? Oh, and by the way, for future reference, the "Jo" of "Jo Biden" takes an "e" at the end – like "potatoe".
Hey, you know what’s even funnier about that Dan Quayle guy? He’s so dumb he couldn’t even come up with his own misspelling! When he corrected the kid’s answer to "potatoe", he was going from the flash card written out by the teacher. You have to wonder what was going through Quayle’s head: Gee, that doesn’t look correct, but she’s a teacher and she must know the answers, right? Like far too many politicians, he deferred to the wisdom of the professional educators – and it destroyed him. That’s the real lesson of that incident – not that Dan Quayle can’t spell "potato" but that an American schoolteacher teaching spelling can’t.
Be that as it may, obviously "No Child Left Behind" is a racket, as some of us said years ago. But that wasn’t what my column was about. You say America won’t "commit adequate resources". I pointed out that America as a whole spends more per pupil on education than any developed nation except Switzerland – and York City spends a third above that. And you have nothing to show for it. Why can’t you address that fact? Bush is gone, get over it. But the Finns and the Koreans and the Chinese and the Swiss and the Japanese and Canadians and Dutch and New Zealanders, Singaporeans, Brits, Australians, Austrians, Germans, Belgians, French, Icelanders, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Estonians, Slovenes, Luxembourgers and Liechtensteiners are all still out there, and they’re cleaning your clock. As I pointed out, the York City budget deficit is higher than what the Slovaks spend per student in total – and yet amazingly they get better math results than you do. That’s the question for you "educators": why are you both so expensive and so utterly crap?
If per capita spending is a third above the per capita spending in the highest spending nation in the OECD and it’s still not "adequate", what would be "adequate"? Fifteen grand per pupil? Twenty-five? Forty-three? Or, in your more honest moments in the deepest darkest recesses of your soul, do you have a vague suspicion that, even if you "committed adequate resources" of a million dollars per student, they’d still be mediocre and unable to compete with Finland or Slovakia or anywhere else because the system you represent is mediocre and unable to compete. Instead of answering that, you start pansying around with Bush WMD cracks. That may still wow ’em on Open Mike Night at the NEA cocktail lounge, but do you realize what a parochial dweeb you sound to the rest of us? To repeat: The problem in Pennsylvania is not the lack of money, but that so much of the money is entirely wasted. On the evidence of your letter, I would include whatever remuneration you receive from the School District of Cheltenham Township.
I think that left a mark!