George Will

     An earnest lot, they are never more so than in their respect for the injunction to be fruitful and multiply. They have large families -- the youngest of the governor's six children is a 6-year-old daughter whom the Huntsmans adopted four months after she was abandoned in a vegetable market in China. Utahns' fecundity is the primary reason why theirs is the youngest state: Its median age of 28 is an astonishing eight years below the nation's median.

     And among the 50 states, Utah has the second highest proportion of students grades K through 12 in public schools, and more home-schooled children than children in private schools. This is largely because of the state's cultural homogeneity. Utah, writes Michael Barone in The Almanac of American Politics, ``is the only state that largely continues to live by the teachings of a church.'' Utahns believe they have high community standards and that their public schools and universities -- which receive 100 percent of the state's personal and corporate income tax revenues -- adhere to them. They might be wrong, but they rightly think that, under federalism, it is their traditional right to be wrong.

     Washington, which often is a busybody, is not just being that with NCLB. Chester Finn, one of America's foremost experts on school reforms, notes that NCLB came from the seventh reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. According to Finn, NCLB says, in effect, this: ``If you keep doing what you have been doing, you won't get any better.'' The poor, says Finn, are still not learning as they should, gaps between the cognitive attainments of many traditionally disadvantaged groups are as wide as ever, and a definition of insanity is: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting the results to be different.

     Utah takes its stand against federal usurpation by standing on the 1979 federal law that states: ``The establishment of the Department of Education shall not increase the authority of the federal government over education or diminish the responsibility for education which is reserved to the states.''

     But government metastasizes. A new Education Department commission whose focus is higher education is chaired by Charles Miller, a Texan who helped develop that state's accountability program that was a precursor of NCLB. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Miller ``insists he is not out to regulate colleges, but only to hold them accountable to taxpayers.'' Got it?

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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