Saturday, August 13, 2011

U.S. Dept.of unEducation

In a my last blog post, I argued that the  No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law is counterproductive. This is just one of many examples where government bureaucrats seem to sit around all day thinking up things to tell us we can and cannot do. These anointed experts think they know best. Worse yet, they can’t seem to recognize when their mandates don’t work.

There is another most recent example where government pontificators want new educational programs to foist on the public. Democratic Senators Mary Landrieu and Patty Murray proposed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed a mandated solution to the very real problem that there are three million job openings in the U.S. right now that cannot be filled because people lack  the training. Instead of our protective treatment of illiterate illegal immigrants while discriminating against foreigners who have the training that could fill those jobs, they propose a taxpayer-funded special jobs training programs. Clearly, their claim they want to help business won’t wash. They just want  to buy votes.

First, they know about the report of the National Commission of Adult Literacy showing that 90 million adults are too educationally challenged to likely succeed in post-secondary training. Every year 1.8 million students don’t even make it out of high school. A poll of businesses showed that 67% of the owners said they had trouble finding competent workers. Another poll showed that 42% of small business owners hired fewer people than they really needed because of the scarcity of skilled workers. Landrieu and Murray acknowledge that one reason companies are moving off shore is to find good workers. Notably, these Senators won’t acknowledge that government over-regulation and tax policy have anything to do with business leaving America. All of this contributes to a very real economic problem. But the Senators’ solution is to expand and develop multiple government programs funded with money we don’t have. They want to treat the symptom (lack of skills) instead of the underlying causes (social deterioration and poor public education).

The social deterioration is promoted by a government entitlement environment in which politicians urge the “have-nots” to envy and hate the people who have things they do not. Envy is  poisonous for  individuals and for society. Just such an environment has spawned the recent riots in England, and I fear it will break out soon here (so-called “flash mob attacks already have). The losers in our society are told they have an excuse (being exploited by the “rich”) rather than being told they have to become more personally responsible. These folks need to read my “Blame Game” book.

The poor public education is generally acknowledged, but nobody seems to know how to fix it. The supposed fixes coming from the Dept. of Education just do not work. There are legitimate roles for the DOE, but they need to stop telling us what we have to do. They should focus on promoting educational research and more inclusive think-tank activities for ideas (not mandates) for educational reform.

Implicit in the NCLB law is an assumption that states can't be trusted because many of them don’t really care about improving education. How absurd! The states, above all, have the greatest vested interest in producing a competent work force to stimulate their local businesses. States compete with other states for tax-generating business. Most states are ineffective in educating their youngsters, but it is because their policy makers don’t know any better and because federal educational law causes more problems than it solves. The federal government should help, not be in the way.

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