George Will, on the "Education Lessons We Left Behind," 25 years after the landmark federal report on our failing schools. Sadly, not much has changed since 1983. High school graduation rates are abysmal, particularly in urban districts. Scores on college entrance examinations peaked more than 40 years ago and American youngsters rank near the bottom of the industrialized world in math and science skills.
As Dr. Will reminds us, education reform has a long history of failure in America, so dismal trends in the classroom shouldn't come as much of a surprise. He also notes that previous generations of politicians and education leaders ignored the lessons of earlier studies, virtually guaranteeing future failures. As an example, he offers the Coleman Report, published 42 years ago:
"...the Coleman report, the result of the largest social science project in history, reached a conclusion so "seismic" -- [Daniel Patrick] Moynihan's description -- that the government almost refused to publish it.
Released quietly on the Fourth of July weekend, the report concluded that the qualities of the families from which children come to school matter much more than money as predictors of schools' effectiveness. The crucial common denominator of problems of race and class -- fractured families -- would have to be faced.
But it wasn't. Instead, shopworn panaceas -- larger teacher salaries, smaller class sizes -- were pursued as colleges were reduced to offering remediation to freshmen.
Five decades later, the same "solutions" are still being peddled to indifferent students, their gullible parents and ignorant voters--products of the same, woeful education system. The cycle continues.
George Will doesn't mention it in his column, but thankfully, there is one education reform movement that hasn't failed. It's called home-schooling and continues to grow exponentially, despite constant attacks from teacher's unions and their lawyers.