Can such methods work? The health care fracas should have given us some sense of how many obstacles stand in the way of getting one top-down program just right for the needs of 300 million-plus Americans. Even with T-shirts, one size never fits all. As government says, shut up and put the thing on anyway, doubts rightly multiply as to the possibility of even Harvard Law School graduates' figuring out what the rest of us need.
Time was when the states, which theoretically own the public schools and theoretically scratch statewide educational itches, addressed on their own the requirements of educational excellence. Then, starting in 1965 with the Great Society, came the era of federal "aid" and No Child Left Behind. Former President Bush's own state of Texas could no longer do what it wanted, having drunk with everyone else the Kool-Aid of top-downism.
Most of the Founding Fathers would gaze in horror at the idea of the central government's telling states how to run their schools, but no one today seems much to care for what a bunch of dead white men in wigs would have thought. Not with all that money rolling in from Washington!
I predict that on the dreadful day of judgment, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, the U.S. government will still be focused on how to get a handle on the problem of education quality and how to make sure, by gum, everybody gets the same share, whatever it costs.
The founders, being wiser, knew that Big Government was less likely to make things happen than were ordinary people, plugged into their own understandings of means and ends. The necessity of strengthening communities and families to encourage motivation and performance -- what White House adviser would think of such a thing? I can certainly think of a few who should.
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