Why Johnny Can’t Read: State Legislators’ Skewed Priorities



In the 2009 “Nation’s Report Card” of students’ achievement, by state, produced by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, Californian students ranked 49th in reading—ahead only of Hawaii and the District of Columbia—and above only Mississippi in science.

One would think that those kind of statistics would focus all attention on reversing the tragedy of processing students through schools that leave them incapable of dealing with the world they will inherit.

One would be wrong.

Instead, last week, the California State Senate passed a bill specifying:

Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people would be added to the lengthy list of social and ethnic groups that public schools must include in social studies lessons....

This new legislation clearly helps fill the gaping holes in earlier mandates:

California law already requires schools to cover the contributions to the state and nation of women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, entrepreneurs, Asian Americans, European Americans, American Indians and labor.

Sorry, guys, but a child who cannot read, and knows little math and science, is not going to get a lot out of such “social studies,” and is certainly never going to make history.

Does anyone really still believe that politicians will ever produce an education system that serves our children?

Let’s just eliminate the taxes and debt that go to government education altogether, and release those resources to be available for producing education far more effectively and creatively. Teachers and/or parents could privatize their schools (see our Can Teachers Own their Own Schools?), and the market and private associations could and would otherwise create myriad alternatives (such as these examples of how the world’s poorest people are educating themselves)—just as phone companies freed from the Ma Bell monopoly have put a cell phone with functionality unimaginable 20 years ago into the hands of every 13 year old in the country.

As Adam Smith knew, freed from a public school monopoly, people “would soon find better teachers for themselves than any the state could find for them.”

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