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Jewish World Review Nov. 27, 2001 / 12 Kislev 5762

Linda Bowles

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Crisis of mediocrity -- IT was in 1983 that members of the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued a brutally honest report entitled "A Nation at Risk." The members of the commission wrote, "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might have viewed it as an act of war."

The report was obviously calculated to awaken a stuporous public to a national disaster. It didn't work. Neither have any of the hundreds of other reports and studies issued since then giving the same message.

We now have in hand a new report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly known as "The Nation's Report Card." NAEP measured the scientific knowledge of students in the fourth, eighth and 12th grades across the nation. They used three scoring levels: basic, proficient and advanced.

Having previously reported that our children are doing poorly on reading and math, NAEP currently reports that, for the United States as a whole, only three in 10 students are proficient in science at their grade level. The proportion that scored below the minimum basic level rose to almost 50 percent.

If one digs into the full report, some interesting truths emerge. For example, the everlasting gap between the achievement of blacks and Hispanics and their white classmates actually closed slightly at the 12th grade level.

Alas, this was not because blacks and Hispanics improved, but because whites did worse. As an added embarrassment to the education industry, this entire decline in 12th grade science achievement took place in public schools.

Twelfth grade scores in private schools rose sharply.

The overall results included scores from private schools, the three largest of which are religious schools: Catholic, Lutheran and Conservative Christian. Whites, blacks and Hispanics in these schools did significantly better at all educational stages than did their counterparts in government schools. This means, of course, that national scores would be even lower if these private schools were omitted from total results.

Based on other objective assessments, if home-schooled students had been included, the superiority of private education over "public" education would be even more striking. That is why teachers and politicians, more so than average folks, send their kids to private schools.

California came in dead last among the states. Democrat Governor Gray Davis, who claims that education is his top priority, was not discouraged by the results, said his spokeswoman, Hilary McLean.

One wonders what is his threshold of discouragement, given that year after ruinous year in the Golden State, hundreds of thousands of minority children languish in poor, unsafe, drug-infested, mind-wasting ghetto schools, held captive there by dirty politics and the governor's own incestuous relationship with old-fashioned, big-time, heavy-handed labor unions representing teachers.

To one extent or another, California's problem is the nation's problem. William McGurn, The Wall Street Journal's chief editorial writer, explained it this way: "This integration of the NEA (National Education Association) into the Democratic Party goes a long way toward explaining how a monopoly that today leaves nearly two-thirds of African-American and Hispanic fourth-graders illiterate, has insulated itself against political accountability."

Education union leaders are open about their mission to get more money for teachers and protect them from the consequences of incompetence as individuals and from accountability as a profession. As one union leader boasted, "as for the kids, they don't pay dues."

What most people, including many teachers, don't fully realize is that the NEA is a left-wing institution with an active agenda, involving support for homosexual causes, abortion, affirmative action, secular humanism, multiculturalism, egalitarianism and open borders. They have insinuated these causes into the teaching profession.

Hard to believe? Hear the words of Robert H. Chanin, NEA general counsel, as he responded to massive documentation assembled by the Landmark Legal Foundation, which supported a formal allegation that the NEA has illegally used millions of dollars of tax exempt union dues on partisan political activities, in full coordination with the Democrat National Committee. In a brash and revealing speech to the National Council of State Education Associations, Chanin said: "Someone really is after us ... (the NEA and its affiliates) have been singled out because of our political power and effectiveness at all levels -- because we have the ability to help implement the type of liberal social and economic agenda that (they) find unacceptable."

In the simplest of terms, the quid pro quo deal is this: in exchange for NEA money and votes, Democrat politicians will not allow consequential school reforms to take place. Only an informed and outraged people can change this.

Comment on JWR contributor Linda Bowles' column by clicking here.

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07/24/01: About that vaunted 'Wall' that separates
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06/19/01: America's intellectual elite and the media dupes who parrot them
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© 2001, Creators Syndicate