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Jewish World Review Jan. 25, 1999 /9 Shevat, 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell Moral bankruptcy
in the schools

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, MADE NATIONAL NEWS last year because it was pushing for teaching "ebonics" -- black English -- in its public schools. This year Oakland is back in the news again, this time because its schools scheduled an all-day teach-in on capital punishment.

For many, if not most, of the low-income and minority children in Oakland, education is their one hope for a better life. Yet the schools that are supposed to educate them are instead using them to carry out the ideological agendas of the so-called "educators" who are failing to educate them.

This is more than a tragedy for the children of Oakland. It is a sign of what is wrong with too many public schools across the country. Instead of being dedicated to the education of children, schools have become places that exist to provide jobs and jollies to the adults.

It may be capital punishment that gives these adults a buzz in Oakland and sex education or some other ideological fashions elsewhere. But the point is that children are being used as means to non-educational ends. Why "educators" do this is one question but a bigger question is how they are able to get away with it.

Teachers' unions and iron-clad tenure are a big part of the reason for such arrogant disregard of the well-being of the children entrusted to the education establishment. Against this background, efforts to improve the public schools by simply pouring more money into them are either very naive or very cynical.

California's new governor, Gray Davis, has loudly proclaimed that his top priority is to "improve" education -- which, to Davis and other liberals, means spending more tax money and making cosmetic "changes" in the system. Governor Davis has called for higher standards for public school teachers.

Who could be against "higher standards"? Only someone who knows what that pious phrase really means. What are called "higher standards" are arbitrary restrictions that keep out potential competitors for the jobs of existing school teachers. Since educators are drawn disproportionately from the bottom half of college students, it is not hard to find better people to put into the nation's classrooms. That is why teachers' unions and the education establishment in general are so determined that only people who have been through education schools and departments be hired.

Education credentials are barriers to protect existing teachers' jobs from competition. Such credentials have no demonstrable relationship to the ability to teach. To sell all this to the public, requiring meaningless credentials is equated with "higher standards" for teacher hiring. Sometimes these are called "tough" standards, as Governor Gray Davis does. Why not? Throwing in a word costs nothing.

As part of his supposedly tough, higher standards, Governor Davis wants "peer review." This means that teachers evaluate one another. After they give each other high grades -- can anyone doubt it? -- they will then all qualify for higher pay.

Silly as this political game may seem, it has worked repeatedly, all across the country. American students continue to finish at or near the bottom on international tests, but this approach is as big a political success as it is an educational failure. Polls show that the Democrats' biggest edge over the Republicans is on education --- and the Democrats are all for throwing money at the education establishment.

Since the National Education Association -- the country's biggest teachers' union -- contributes millions of dollars to Democrats, it is understandable that Democrats would support the NEA. What is not understandable is why Republicans remain so inarticulate on this issue.

It will not be enough for Republicans to come up with a few phrases or a few gimmicks in election years if the NEA's propaganda goes unchallenged during the years between elections.

One of the few rays of hope is that private individuals and organizations across the country are contributing many millions of dollars of their own money to provide low-income children with scholarships to attend private schools. This is one of the great untold stories of our times.

It is also real compassion, as distinguished from the kind of phony political stuff that leads to educational tragedies like those in Oakland.

01/22/99: Who is going to convict Santa Claus?
01/19/99: Seeing through the spin
01/13/99: A trial is a trial is a trial
01/11/99:Trials and tribulations
01/08/99: Rays of hope
01/04/99: Random thoughts
12/31/98: The President versus the presidency
12/29/98: The time is now!
12/23/98: World-class hypocrisy
12/21/98: The spreading corruption
12/17/98: Politically "contrite"
12/16/98: Polls and partisanship
12/14/98: The "non-profit" halo
12/11/98: Corruption and confusion
12/03/98: The health care "crisis"
11/30/98: Knowing what you are talking about
11/23/98: The impeachment legacy
11/23/98: Random thoughts
11/19/98: Tales out of bureaucracies
11/16/98: Scholarships based on scholarship
11/12/98: Forward march
11/09/98: Moral outrage
11/05/98: Will the Republicans ever learn?
11/02/98: A voter's duty
10/30/98: The poverty pimp's poem
10/29/98: Random thoughts on the election
10/27/98: "Partisan" and "unfair"
10/23/98: Ed-u-kai-tchun
10/21/98: McGwire, Maris and the Babe
10/16/98: Lightweight Boxer
10/14/98: A strange word
10/09/98: Impeachment standards
10/08/98: Alternatives to seriousness
10/07/98: Heredity, environment and talk
10/02/98: A much-needed guide
10/01/98: Starr's real crime
9/24/98: Costs and power
9/18/98: Are we sheep?
9/16/98: Judicial review
9/15/98: Hillary Rodham Crook?
9/14/98: Taking stock
9/11/98: Moment of truth
9/04/98: Random thoughts
8/31/98: The twilight of special prosecutors?
8/26/98: "Doing a good job"
8/24/98: America on trial?
8/19/98: Played for fools
8/17/98: A childish letter
8/11/98: Hiding behind a woman
8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
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6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.