Education and The Cold War

Run for the hills. Call your representative from the SUV, but escape any way you can.images The federal government is helping again. When the feds talk about helping you, it’s code for getting into your pocketbook or lifestyle. With all the government help I’ve received lately, I am beginning to feel downright impoverished and threatened. There is no such thing as ‘free community college’, I don’t care how many hours of community service are given by the students. Someone pays and that someone is you, me and our kids.

Remote living is not immunity from federal assistance

Remote living is not immunity from federal assistance

The federal bureaucrats are taking a bow over the latest drop in unemployment, but most of the new jobs available to our kids are low paying service jobs. Not enough to earn a real living. You know what that means. When we die or the feds strip the last penny from our bank account, game over. The government will have spent the last of our money and those children become enslaved. There is a real risk that we are the last Americans to enjoy and prosper from the American Dream.

The push by the federal government to ‘buy’ the education system began long before the Cold War started in 1947. Wresting education from local control has become an art form. I first noticed the federal influence in the 1980s when we were raising our young family in Arivaca, Arizona.

I remember it well because it was the night I realized that I no longer lived in my father’s America. It was cold and dark on that early December 1982 night when stew, homemade biscuits and honey warmed the insides of five hungry, tired people. Dinner was followed by chores and homework.

Our son was assigned dishes and the two girls were told to bundle up the trash and take it out. We, the parents, took care of clearing the table, putting excess food away, and sweeping up. Trouble started immediately. Our eldest daughter informed us that we had no right to force her to take out the trash as that constituted psychological abuse. What?

Number 1 daughter told us about the special class she attended to tell kids about different kinds of abuse. The next day found us at the elementary school principal’s office demanding to know what was happening in that particular classroom. The principal made soothing, cooing noises as she explained that twenty-five percent of

Longhorn Saloon in Amado, Arizona seemed like a good place to spend our first rodeo.

Longhorn Saloon in Amado, Arizona seemed like a good place to spend our first rodeo.

children in the United States were abused and the federal government was sponsoring an abuse awareness campaign. Through this campaign, she explained, they hoped that more children would report when they were at risk. My comment that the school was interfering in the family fell on deaf ears as she continued her recitation of the party line. Clearly, the principle believed in the program and this wasn’t the first time she’d had this conversation. This was, however, our first rodeo.

Our family muddled through the next several years trying to make a silk purse out of the sow’s ear that was the 1980s ‘modern’ education system. We survived incoming missiles, one after another; history that was not history, math and science disciplines that weren’t, high scoring essays with incomplete sentences and spelling errors (the kid kept to the theme, though), further incursions on what the family was supposed to be or not be, and increasingly high dollars invested in administrators and facilities and fewer in anything to do with actual education.  We appealed to our kids, explaining that the school system was failing and that they had to take the initiative to learn. The kids pointed to their excellent report cards and laughed. Back then, it never occurred to us that we could teach school.

John Dewey in 1902

John Dewey in 1902

Along this rocky, disruptive path we learned about John Dewey and his influence on the educational system. The Portal on Philosophy and Education neatly summarized a shocking revelation in the John Dewey on Children, Childhood, and Education analysis provided on the web site: “The developmental sclerosis of adults and the scandalously imperfect culture they compulsively maintain is a historical situation, which means it could be different.  And the calculus of that difference in fact resides just in the way adults relate to the children who are in their power—that is, in education.” Imperfect culture we compulsively maintain? I liked the culture of our roots. It meant I could be anything I wanted to be and go as far as I chose to go. All I had to do was work hard and earn it. I was an individual and I was free to be me. The culture even forgave the fact that it took a while for me to figure out who ‘me’ was.

The Dewey discovery was the first of many. The Department of Education, DOE, which started out with great intent in the late 1800s, became hungry for the power to drive cultural change through the government lens on education.  In the early days, the DOE was a national bulletin board of what worked and what didn’t in the local education communities of America.

It was a tremendous resource for school boards, administrators and teachers. By the Eisenhower administration, the DOE had become a tool of Cold War (1947-1991) politics.

In 1958, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act, NDEA. It was hailed as

Sputnik 1 drove an intense push for science education. (Image of Sputnik 1 from 1957)

Sputnik 1 drove an intense push for science education. (Image of Sputnik 1 from 1957)

a great thing for the country. For the first time there was a national educational push to a unified objective. The U.S. needed to produce highly trained technical people so it could compete with the Soviet Union in the space race. It was embarrassing that Sputnik launched first. The NDEA used a carrot and stick approach; student loans, ‘improved’ science, math and foreign language programs, and it stimulated vocational-technical training. Gee, I wonder how those early technological giant steps ever happened without the NDEA?

Ah, the sweet taste of power will not be denied. The DOE train was out of the station and building a full head of steam. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter elevated the DOE to a cabinet level position and the future’s die was cast. The feds moved quickly. Re-education was initiated to build the future utopian society based on what ‘they’ thought it should look like. Outcome based education became the basis for indoctrination and today’s Common Core will track people from kindergarten to grave. We have the hive; the Borg generation is on the way. The federal government would have you believe that “resistance is futile”.

We survived. We lost our son to self-indulgence but the two girls made it. And then…we had a second family. Several years ago, we adopted our son’s baby boys. Education is highly individualized and a central theme at our house. We home school these two. They are being raised to be their own persons with a working knowledge of economics, history, the classics, writing and composition, critical thinking, music, math, science, Natural Law, The Constitution, their responsibilities as citizens of this great republic and a belief they can be anything they want to be as long as they earn it.

While we can still laugh, let’s take a romp through some of the education system absurdities we live with today. The Free Lunch program is a good one. It began as a ‘good idea’ to manipulate the commodities markets in 1936. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration believed if they could get rid of the U.S.’s excess harvest, the prices would go up.

Congress agreed and the Commodity Donation Program was born to buy, then donate, surplus commodities to schools for meals for poor kids. A decade later, in 1946, the ‘feel good’ program grew. The government decided it should worry about kids’ nutrition. National School Lunch Act was passed to improve child nutrition through a permanently funded school lunch program. “Since then, the law has expanded to include free and reduced priced breakfast, milk, after-school snacks, and summer meals for qualifying students

In fiscal year 2014, all nutrition programs were funded to the tune of $16.3 billion in both summerbreakfastimagecash and commodity payments and it served about 31 million kids. It cost the federal government over $525 per student. That price does not include the soft costs of administering the program, monitoring the program, or the watchers who watch the monitors. Apologies to the economists among you shuddering because I performed a simple hard-money division. I am a simple engineer.

Early Childhood Education is fun. In President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address he said, “In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children…studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own.  We know this works.  So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.” It’s for the children.

Ignoring the arguments over whether it is a good or bad idea the idea of full-day education for kindergarteners has been embraced. The President’s proposal is being addressed in Congress as I write. Let’s check out the cost. It’s not as easy to understand the actual costs because the feds are attempting to overlay the funding responsibility on the states and cost share at some level. It is a quintessential federal smoke and mirrors approach. According to the 2011 US Census Bureau statistics  there are over 21 million children five and under in the U.S. Most of the data indicates that the costs for pushing mandatory education down the age scale is about $2,000 per student and will include federal tax dollar infusions into several existing programs. That works out to about $42 billion in simple math. Whether this program is funded state or locally, you the taxpayer still pay the bill.

Head Start, which receives about $9 billion in annual funding, would be one named program to benefit from the President’s initiative.  Head Start was initiated in 1965 and to date has received over $200 billion in federal funding.  In 2010, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the results of the federal Head Start program.  The program isn’t working well. “…“In summary, this report finds that providing access to Head Start has benefits for both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in the cognitive, health, and parenting domains, and for 3-year-olds in the social-emotional domain,” the authors wrote. “However, the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by first grade for the program population as a whole.” Dr. Jay P. Greene, endowed chair and head of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said the evaluation revealed children who participated in Head Start sustained virtually no lasting results….” Even in the context of the federal government does it makes sense to just fund it more? Which leads us to the question of placing ever younger children into the classroom.

In February 2014, just eleven states and the District of Columbia required their public schools to provide free, full-day kindergarten by law. Six states have no statute requiring any kindergarten at all. “And though the remaining states require at least a half-day be provided, 12 allow for districts to require parents to pay for the second half of the day.

I imagine whether or not young children want or need this type of education, they are going to get it. In July 2014 the verdict seems clear. “A new national poll released today by the First Five Years Fund finds that 71 percent of voters – including 60 percent of Republicans – support greater federal investments in early childhood education. Importantly, these same voters are willing for Congress and President Obama to spend now in order to capitalize on the economic return on investment from early childhood education, as documented by Nobel Prize-winning economist Professor James Heckman.”

At the other end of the spectrum is the proposal to provide free community college educations or equivalent trade school to all comers. Following is The Washington Post Editorial Board’s January 11, 2015 evaluation:

“Here’s how it would work: The federal government would spend some $60 billion over 10 years in a cost-sharing partnership with the states, with the goal of covering community college tuition bills. The feds would pick up 75 percent of the tab, and the states would chip in the rest. The White House figures the program would save roughly 9 million students an average of $3,800 in tuition each year….”

It means that the taxpayer foots $6,666 per student through either state or federal taxes. Knowing bureaucracies as I do, I expect the cost per unit to rise smartly and quickly. It would be one thing if we were voluntarily funding free-thinking individuals, but that isn’t what happens.   In exchange for all of this free stuff, the federal government wants to call the educational shots.

The following is copied text from the White House Fact Sheet on the President’s Early Education Proposal:

Funds will support states as they ensure that children are enrolled in high-quality programs.   In order to access federal funding, states would be required to meet quality benchmarks that are linked to better outcomes for children, which include: State-level standards for early learning; Qualified teachers for all preschool classrooms; and A plan to implement comprehensive data and assessment systems.

We are clamoring to send our most beautiful creative minds into the slavery of a federal educational system that feeds and houses them from shortly after birth until a couple of years after high school, if the feds have it their way.  Remember this is the same federal government that will pay for old people to have sex-change operations, but refuses to pay for their cancer treatment if they are too old to be deemed useful to the state. These are the people who believe they know what the educational “best” is.

Quit asking for more stuff and reject the governments’ attempts to seduce you through ‘free stuff’. It is not free fiscally or morally.  For the children; please do not give them over to slavery so easily.  The government does not exist to help you or the children. The government exists to help itself.