Not long ago, our new governor, Mr. DeWine, said that he supports equality in education and wants every school child to have a chance to succeed (Highway Money Concerns DeWine, 2/29/2019). What parent would disagree? But I wonder, does he realize that this would mean a complete U-turn on the goal of equity that is the No.1 priority of Each Child, Our Future, the five-year strategic plan adopted by the Ohio state school board last summer?
Someone needs to explain to him that although equality and equity share a lot of the same letters, they represent polar opposites in terms of the desired outcome. Far from providing every child with equal access to educational resources (equality of opportunity), prioritizing equity (sameness of outcome) means selectively directing resources towards only one end, the lower end, of the achievement spectrum.
Strangely, for people living in the rich land of opportunity that results from our vibrantly competitive marketplace in goods and ideas, there are cohorts of social theorists who hate the idea of competition, and who are shocked, just shocked that anyone might benefit from hard work and a disciplined lifestyle.
These true believers are determined to wipe out any differences in outcome. They intend to do this by government allocation (determined by virtuous people like themselves) of resources and rewards. After all, central bureaucratic control has worked so well over the years for the grateful citizens of Kim’s North Korea, Castro’s Cuba, Maduro’s Venezuela, Xi’s China, and other such socialist paradises.
The results of our very own redistributive school system may not be so graphic, as education is a non-tangible resource, but the effects are nonetheless devastating.
School resources, such as Individual Educational Plans, are allocated, not to our top scholars, but, as mentioned before, toward those generally the least likely to benefit from them. Individual Nannying Plans might be more accurate.
Astonishingly, equity has been a guiding principle in federal interference in American education for decades. It has encroached further and further into our local schools due to federal funding tied to the kind of skewed statistics that now make up those deliberately obscure school report cards. Our schools would be much better off forgoing the small amount, around 7%, of funding involved, and choosing the effective teaching of solid knowledge instead.
These federal bribery schemes have aspirational names such as Race to the Top (Obama administration), No Child Left Behind (George W. Bush administration), and the recently reauthorized NCLB act, now called the Every Student Succeeds Act. Please don’t miss the irony of these titles. George Orwell would be proud.
Certainly, leaving no child behind sounds attractive, but a moment’s thought will reveal the limits that it places on the free development of all but those in the lowest ability grouping. Rather than leveling the playing field, this method seeks to level the scores. Yes, politicians of all stripes are much too enthusiastic about imposing collectivist solutions on the children of the rest of us – since obviously government officials know best how to bring up the children of other people. Their own kids, of course, do not attend regular government schools.
The sad fact is that a watered down, fact poor curriculum, meant to erase the advantage of a richer home background, actually deprives the less advantaged student even more. The notorious achievement gap between the children of the “haves” and the children of the “have-nots” has actually increased in the years since the federal government started selectively interfering to “help” the disadvantaged. Not surprisingly, too, considering the earmarked funding available, a growing proportion of America’s school children are now labeled as disadvantaged or learning disabled. The sheer waste and ineffectiveness of this policy should have woken up even the most blinkered bureaucrat by now, but utopian thinkers seem remarkably impervious to real life evidence.
Fortunately, there is a known solution — a coherent, connected, content rich curriculum. Among others, educational psychologist and researcher, E. D. Hirsch, Jr., has demonstrated that this solid content approach actually succeeds in narrowing, or even eliminating, that persistent achievement gap (see Hirsch’s The Knowledge Deficit and/or The Making of Americans). Even better, it has done this while improving the results for all strata of students.
Why keep voting to fund a system that is fundamentally flawed? It is not money that makes an education effective. It is solid content and the right vision. If children are not mere pawns to be fed the thin gruel of workforce training, but unique individuals with hearts, souls, and minds that need to be nourished on inspiring stories and sound knowledge, then parents and the community will want to chose representatives who will promote this kind of learning. The happiness of our children, and the stability of our republic depend on it.
Delaware resident Deborah Kruse Guebert is a longtime educator who has taught in Europe and currently tutors students in mathematics in the local area.