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With Government in Education Process, Student Rights Diminished

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I liked what Benjamin Malee and Syed Hossain had to say when I read “Why Obey When We Can Choose?” So much so, that I immediately looked for the name of the publication in which it appears. Because it’s the Columbia Spectator, I had to double-check the “About Us” feature of the publication.

Sure enough, I discovered that the “Columbia” in the title is associated with Columbia University, and that the Spectator is “the second-oldest college daily paper in the country and have been financially independent from the University since 1962.”

Financial independence from the University helps explain how two sophomores, one an economics major (and a Libertarian, fyi) and, the other majoring in mechanical engineering, could publish statements about the Texas State Board of Education putting its mark on American history for future generations such as:

All that’s happening is that one one-size-fits-all education system is being replaced by another one-size-fits-all education system. Standards that are set by the state mean that everyone has to be able to reach these goals, assuming that every child will and must learn the same things, when in fact every child learns differently and will believe in different things…Political involvement in education doesn’t allow for free thought and instead mandates that into which children will be indoctrinated.


Murray Rothbard once stated that education by the state is not guided by altruism. Instead, it is guided by the desire to coerce the population into a mold desired by the establishment. People should be able to choose what to learn instead of being force-fed an education that they don’t want. Teachers should be able to teach without the state dictating what they should teach, and students should be able to decide for themselves what they want to learn according to that in which they can excel.

Next, Malee and Hossain provide readers with alternatives “to being forced into a state-sponsored education.” The first is homeschooling which provides “the freedom to teach in a coercion-free environment [that] will allow students to thrive and succeed to the best of their abilities instead of having to follow a mandate.” The second alternative offered is private school.

And, then, the sophomores offer a nice strong finish:

In the end, when the government is involved in the education process, the rights of students are diminished, even taken away, because they have no ability to learn what they want to make themselves truly successful. Success, as defined by the state, is effectively limiting what students can become. The state may change what is being taught, but individualism will always prevail, because we are not the same and shouldn’t be treated as such. Instead of asking why the education system is failing our children, we should be asking why the state is involved in the first place. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Even as these fellows note that the pendulum has swung on the political content of textbooks – as it has been doing throughout schooling’s history – and exchanging one one-size-fits-all-education system with another, the powers-that-be in Washington were hard at work proving them correct on another front.

break_dancingAccording to Nick Anderson’s Washington Post article of today’s date, U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced “Race to the Top awards go to Delaware, Tennessee,” to the tune of $107 million and $502 million respectively. They got this money because, “Leaders in both states pledged to establish national models for data-driven reform, tying teacher evaluation to student performance in an all-out effort to close achievement gaps.”

While it’s not close to the $4 billion of tax payers’ money that ultimately will be doled out to the states that make the biggest promises for education reform and closing achievement gaps, $600+ million is nothing to sneeze at when we see No Child Left Behind verbiage following straight through into the “new” Race to the Top. Diane Ravitch’s latest book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education does a fine job of outlining how these approaches have already failed miserably, as well as providing a look at just how much this failure has cost American taxpayers. Perhaps someone should gave Obama and Duncan their own copies.


You know, 15 years ago I had hope that lessons would be learned and costly failures would become a thing of the past. But today, with so many schools hurting for cash, now it’s easier than ever for the piper to call whatever tune he wants, and the states will eagerly dance despite the strings in which they will – inevitably – get tangled as they furiously break (or broke) dance.


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One Response to “With Government in Education Process, Student Rights Diminished”

  1. Ben Bennett says:

    Ravitch proposes that testing and CHOICE are killing state schooling? There's a red flag for you. On one end the feel gooders are fighting to make sure Johnny isn't challenged so much his esteem isn't damaged (and teachers aren't held accountable for teaching anything measurable) and on the other hand, suggesting that anyone who self-educates independent of the State can't posssibly learn anything — while physically damaging the State Schools in the process.


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