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Fixing our Education Problem

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

This is the first in a two-part series on our educational system in the United States.

Some e-mail messages seem to float around the Internet forever. Most of them, especially the ones about Lindsay Lohan, low mortgage rates, or offshore pharmaceuticals, serve only to clutter up your inbasket. But every so often, a message appears with some valuable nuggets of information. One of these reappeared on my computer last week.

The message starts by listing America’s ten poorest cities, based on the percentage of people living below the poverty line. It then identifies what all ten cities have in common: They have all been run by Democrats for at least 25 years. (Is anyone surprised?) Some of these cities have never once elected a Republican Mayor in over a century! What it doesn’t say is that the school systems in these cities have been run by the Democrats for the same period – in most cases much longer.

The lesson here is that you cannot fix a problem until you come to grips with its source. Most of America has lived in denial about our public education system for at least 30 years. After all, every poll says that the public believes that Democrats are better at handling the issue of education. How can this delusion persist, when the school system in every major American city is a disaster, and every single one of them is run exclusively by a Democrat machine in cahoots with their union partners?

The professional Left was beside itself when America’s education ranking dropped in a study recently released by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a reputable organization of 34 of the world’s most advanced countries. But when you read their columns warning of the coming Armageddon for America (nothing new from the left), not one commentary mentioned the fact that their compadres are the ones principally responsible for these problems.

After all, these are the people who gave us the self-esteem movement, English as a Second Language, grade inflation, social promotion, the elimination of Western Civ and the dummying down of education requirements and the curriculum in its entirety. One has to wonder what they thought would become of our educational system after all of these maneuvers.

Interestingly, Robert J. Samuelson, columnist for the Washington Post, pinpointed the problem by breaking it down into its components. The OECD study of 15-year-olds puts America right in the middle at 17th (out of 34), with an overall score of 500, just slightly above the average (493). Samuelson pointed out that while the average score for non-Hispanic whites in America is in the top ten (at 525) and that Asian-Americans actually place second in the world, the scores that brought down American averages were among blacks (441) and Hispanics (466). Only students in Shanghai, China outperformed Asian-Americans (although the study doesn’t state how the other billion or so Chinese fared).

The vast majority of America’s blacks and Hispanics are located in the large cities, and – again, no surprise here – these are the areas where the Democrats and their union friends have the greatest control. And yet, there is very little demand from the left to do anything about this. Of course, most of them are too busy car-pooling their children to private schools.

A recent documentary, "Waiting for Superman," awakened the left to how bad the problem has become. Oprah Winfrey saw the movie and did a show on it, as if she had never known there was a problem with inner-city schools. All of a sudden the left woke up to who actually created the problem – they did.

Before "Waiting for Superman," there was a 2010 documentary by Madeleine Sackler called "The Lottery." Her film covers some of the same territory as "Waiting for Superman," with some of the same principal characters. "The Lottery" focuses on four families, each of whom is attempting to get a child enrolled into a charter school in New York City. The film illustrates the desperation and despair of those who suffer under the yoke of the New York’s education establishment – a burden and a challenge no different than those faced by parents and children in every other major city in the nation. The test scores shown by the OECD study show the devastating effects of these bureaucracies on the children of America.

Eva Moskowitz runs the charter school that is the focus of "The Lottery." The film depicts her attempt to open a second school, along with the reprehensible reaction of the teachers union, which hired ACORN protesters to try and stop the second charter from being opened (ironically, at the location of a former NYC school which was shut down due to poor performance). The interaction between Moskowitz and the school board/city council members is riveting.

Families are staking everything on getting their kids into her schools because they know their childrens’ futures depend on it. And, yet, she is treated as a pariah by politicians whose first priority is to protect the unions.

Ultimately, when the lottery takes place, you experience the elation of the winners, but worse, you share the devastation of the losers. No child in America should be forced to have their future determined by picking their name out of a hat. That is what the public education system has done to these kids.

The responsibility lies in the hands of the education establishment, their union cronies, and, yes, the teachers who vote for and accept these unions and their leaders. They are all guilty of destroying the future of urban children throughout America. The question becomes how we tear down their structure.

Next week we will visit a charter school in Los Angeles to get some answers.

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