Saturday, August 28, 2010

ABOLISH THE FEDERAL DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION



I was watching a political show with a liberal friend recently, when someone on the TV used the talking point that Republicans want to abolish the federal Department of Education. She hadn't been paying attention, perhaps, because when I commented in supporting that idea, she said "they already did that!" When I asked "who did it?" she said "Bloomberg." Then I got it. She was referring to Mayor Bloomberg's takover of the powers of the NYC Board of Education. The record of improvement since then is well known, which was my final comment on the subject, in that conversation.


Abolishing the federal Department of Education is only possible by creating a new, smaller bureacracy, to handle funding to the states on an equal "per capita" basis. That said, the case for abolishment is fairly straightforward: Public schools have declined steadily since the creation of the DoE. It is a failed experiment of national bureacracy that's having an extremely damaging effect on more than one generation of our youth. I've seen the college kids who can't read, write, or do basic math, in the real world, and it's sad. Of course, there would have to be serious education "reform," but the states would handle that on their own.


If there is a "string attached" to federal funding, it should be based on student performance. Maybe the bureacrats can translate some tests from any number of foreign nations that actually expect their students to be able to read, write, and do math. This might be necessary, because states like mine (NY) already do crazy things with the "testing" and "scoring" methods, to boost funding. The problem in NYS is being addressed, to some degree, and all schools took a cut in their percentages of students' proficiency ratings.


That's the point. While state education systems can be corrupted, it's easier to reform them than it is a corrupted national bureaucracy, which is what the DoE is. If it's looked at objectively, it's been a huge failure. Attempts to "reform" it, or make it more "accountable" have only bloated the bureacracy further (see Kennedy's "No Child Left Behind" law, which Bush supposedly "underfunded").


Even with an intelligent man at the helm in Arne Duncan, the Administration had to "bribe" states to increase the "caps" on charter schools, among other reforms. In NYS, they're already bitching that they still could have won the 700 mil with a lower cap ("They" being the "educrat-union political establishment"). This is beyond disgraceful, when charter schools have to have lotteries to accept a small percentage of students who apply.


Some think it has something to do with a "liberal" conspiracy to destroy America. I don't think so, but this is diminishing our nation, beyond a doubt. It's not really about "liberals," though many of the "educrats" are that. It's about power, and holding on to it. I think the "liberal" agenda has become secondary to "I'll contribute to politician X, and I'll keep my program, school district, or job." Again, this is the nature of political bureacracy, but abolishing the federal DofE would remove a layer of bureacracy that has plagued this nation far too long.


Cities, even ones as big and liberal as NYC, have been trying to improve their education systems, under onerous state and federal regulation. As noted above, NY State is "facing the music" about this now. What happened to letting the states compete for having the best education system in the country, and letting others emulate them? That seems to have been the idea behind Sec. Duncan's "Race to the Top" program, and why it seemed like a breath of fresh air, at first. In context, it's a sad commentary on how low our educational/political establishment has fallen; that it takes a blatant bribe to do something that helps educate our children. I have no problem with any politician that advocates abolishing the Department of Education, though that position has been labeled "extreme."


...or we could try "reforming" it, yet again...*sigh*




Friday, August 06, 2010

Will Obama Have A "Beer Summit" With Spain?


The Obama administration lifted a warning that "'racist prejudices could lead to the arrest of Afro-Americans who travel to Spain," just as first lady Michelle Obama landed there for vacation, according to the UK's DailyMail. (link) The article continues, "Mrs Obama's trip now risks being overshadowed by a row about institutionalised racism." No, I don't think it will, in the US media. This isn't a story that Obama wants to see, and the obsequious media will accomodate him. However, this story deserves to be heard, because it gives an insight into the politics, as well as the nature and universality of racism.


It's worth looking back at the Administration's intervention in the arrest of Pres. Obama's friend, Professor Gates, which culminated in the famous "beer summit." It seemed as if the administration was forced to deal with that story, because the "victim" was a friend of the president. Still, his handling of the situation was "ham-handed," at best. This is what the current flap with Spain smacks of, as well.


Because of what is now called an "isolated incident," a warning was posted on the US State Department's website, warning African Americans that travelling to Spain could result in being arrested "for no apparent reason." This was posted "alongside information about ETA and Islamist terrorist attacks in the country." That might be worse than saying the Cambridge Police Department "acted stupidly," but really, what's the difference? The two African American government employees arrested in Spain last year had enough clout to get a warning posted on the State Dept. website, and now it's been taken down, for political considerations. Why the warning wasn't lifted on the day the trip was planned just puts a cherry tomato on top of the "ham-handed" sandwich this has turned out to be.


Racism is universal, and practiced by people of every race. It becomes "intitutional" when people of good will look the other way. Here in NYC, a Mexican kid got beaten to death in what's being charged as a hate crime, and the first kid that was arrested was an African immigrant. Spanish racists don't like Mexicans any more than American (or transplanted African) racists do, either, for that matter. It all gets very complicated, but it comes down to "racists of any race hate people of other races." I also know people of many "races" that just don't like people of another nationality, or religion, or sexual orientation. This is a common human condition, and not a result of American politics or capitalism, as many learned people profess. Americans just talk about it more openly than people is many nations do, and it's hugely politicized.


It's important to distinguish "prejudice" from "racism." It is similar to the difference between "don't like" and "hate." A police officer may "prejudge" a person of another race as "guilty of something," but that doesn't rise to the level of racism. A professional cop adheres to the laws, and doesn't arrest someone without evidence of a crime. Police are trained to treat everyone as a suspect, when investigating a situation. That, in itself, creates the impression of "racism" that is often complained about by many racial groups. Trust me, as a White male, I've had my share of bad experiences with the police, as noted in a previous column (link).


A racist cop, who hates people of other races, will create false evidence aginst someone, and abuse their power over them, every time they encounter someone of another race. Police departments become aware of this behavior, and the good ones act to stop it. I don't know how widespread this behavior is in Spanish police departments, but it's a sure bet that these "isolated incidents" won't stop after the First Lady's trip. They won't stop here in the US, or anywhere in the world, for that matter.


This brings us back to the way the Administration handled this situation. Should the warning have been on the State Dept. website, in the first place? Regardless of that, why did the First Lady have to vacation abroad? And why Spain? Here's an interesting thought or two about that. It's no secret that the President doesn't like Britain very much. Britain and Spain don't like each other much either, and Spain hasn't been liking the US much, in recent years. It fits into the President's pattern of "treating your enemies better than your friends" foreign policy, as well.


Perhaps it was an unintentional snub, and Michelle chose Spain because it's more beautiful, this time of year. Also, Spain's "green economy" (you know, the one Obama wants us to emulate) is in the crapper, and he might want to boost the tourism business there. I bet alot of people in the Gulf region wish his wife vacationed at one or more of their beautiful cities.


It's not a "big" story, so the lib media will feel justified burying it. Still, I think it serves as a perfect picture of how the Administration keeps shooting itself in the foot politically. I can't believe that somebody in his camp doesn't "get it," and see that the American people are watching all of this, and are not happy. This story is one of many "bricks in the wall" of growing opposition to our President. I feel bad for him, because he's got disillusionment from his left-wing base, and is losing independents to the fiscal conservatives. He's a lonely guy, on his 49th birthday, though the "moderates" are still with him. Of course, trying to be a "moderate" president is what got him in this situation, in the first place. You can't please everybody, as president, but you can pick and choose your battles wisely. That's a skill Pres. Obama hasn't shown so far, and will need, if the GOP makes signifigant gains in this year's elections.