School for fools

By AL DIAMON  |  February 13, 2013

Much of what LePage has to say about education can be dismissed as blather (for instance, his plan to grade every Maine school on an A-through-F scale), but that shouldn't obscure his central points: The state's schools are over-regulated and under-responsive to students' future needs. That isn't necessarily the fault of teachers, administrators, or even unions. To a large extent, it's the result of the pernicious (did you catch that hot-shot word, Mr. C. Minus Teacher?) intrusion of the federal bureaucracy into what ought to be a state — or, better yet, a local — matter.

School systems are forced by rules from Washington to mold the curriculum mostly to prepare students for taking various national tests. These tests have almost nothing to do with determining whether anybody is learning anything useful. Instead, they attempt to measure progress toward the goals of whatever arbitrary theory of learning is in vogue this year, while continuing to trample over whatever kids might actually want to study or, perish the thought, what their parents might want to pay for.

To some extent, charter schools attempt to reverse this trend, and LePage is to be commended for advancing that cause, albeit by blustering and ranting in generally unproductive ways. But real progress will come only when municipalities can make more of their own decisions about what to teach and how to teach it. Increasing the involvement of taxpayer-parents (as well as taxpayer-non-parents) in setting standards and budgets would go a long way toward curing some of the ills that beset public education.

It's not that you and your neighbors won't make mistakes every bit as ludicrous as No Child Left Behind. It's just that the only people who'll have to suffer for them will be your own kids.

Class dismissed. Essays on this subject can be emailed to aldiamon@herniahill.net. No extra credit for agreeing with me.

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  Topics: Talking Politics , Politics, Harvard University, Paul Lepage
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