I've been making regular visits to my doctor and taking his advice for 20 years and getting sicker and sicker while he's been charging me more and more. But I've got an appointment for more consultation next week. "You're crazy, Williams," you say. "You've got a quack doctor, but you're a fool to keep taking his advice!"
We can say the same about Americans taking the advice of an education establishment that has brought us one educational disaster after another while going deeper into our pocketbooks. And now it's talking Outcome Based Education and Goals 2000. Let's review its record.American students rank last on most international comparisons of academic achievement. Today's achievement test scores are lower than in 1960. Colleges expend huge resources on high school math and English remedial courses. About a third of major corporations are teaching employees reading, writing and math. Twenty-six percent of our students are in special education classes, compared with 1 percent and 2 percent in other developed nations.
When I was a kid, school disciplinary problems consisted of chewing gum in class, passing notes, running in hallways and an occasional after-school fistfight. That's changed. The Justice Department reports as many as 500,000 violent incidents per month in the nation's public secondary schools. Each month, 1,000 teachers require medical attention because of in-school assaults; 125,000 are threatened. Being 58 years old, I find this incredible. When I was in school, despite attending school in the slums of North Philadelphia, no kid would have dreamed of threatening, much less assaulting, a teacher.
Thomas Sowell, senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, sheds light on what's wrong in his recent book "Inside American Education." Education majors achieve much lower SAT scores than those choosing other majors. When they finish college, it's the same story. Education majors are outscored, on the Graduate Record Exam, by other majors anywhere from 91 to 259 points. College students who major in education are among the least qualified. Some of the least qualified students, taught by the least qualified professors, have been entrusted with the education of our children. We shouldn't be surprised by their falling for fads and substituting methods that work for methods that sound good. This mediocrity isn't new. When Harvard University's president retired in 1933, he told the trustees that Harvard's Graduate School of Education was a "kitten that ought to be drowned." More recently, a knowledgeable academic said, "The educationists have set the lowest standards and require the least amount of hard work." In some circles, education departments have become known as the university's "intellectual slums."
More money isn't the solution. More money will just deliver more expensive incompetents. We must look to broader application of private and public school choice experiments going on across the nation. Plus, we must give greater support to dedicated public school teachers and principals bucking edicts from politicians, boards of education and teacher unions in an attempt to educate our kids.