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|NUMBER 158||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||MARCH 1999|
The Purpose of Goals 2000 & School-to-Work
Rep. Henry Hyde's letter to Governor George Ryan (R) of Illinois. (Reprinted by permission.)
Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515-1306
February 1, 1999
Governor George Ryan
On the vital issue of education, please permit me to express my views on some aspects that have far-reaching consequences.
Despite the high-powered marketing spin they receive, the purpose of Goals 2000 and School-to-Work (STW) is to train school children to be entry level workers for the national and global business community, with minimum academic requirements.
It is a top-down, planned program for the workers, funded and/or supported by the government, national organizations, private foundations, labor organizations, and administered by the educators, the NEA, and business councils appointed by governors of each state.
However, it encompasses much more than teaching job skills to the future workforce of America. It is meant to teach students political values but has been fundamentally deficient in academics.
In some but not yet all schools, children are tracked from an early age for job skills required by industry through five- year plans. This cheats children of the opportunity of choosing their own careers voluntarily and getting the best education they deserve.
Vocational training should be available to high school students in their senior year if they decide they do not want to go to college. However, they should not be coerced into learning job skills chosen by school authorities. Job training and political correctness should not be the priority of our schools.
Over the last six years under Goals 2000 and STW, students have failed to meet international education standards once taken for granted in America. The Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) results released February 24, 1998, indicate that students from 19 out of 21 participating countries out-scored U.S. 12th-graders. The Czech Republic, the United States, and Austria were among the lowest-performing countries in both advanced mathematics and physics. Along with previous TIMSS results, the scores showed a disturbing trend. U.S. 4th-graders ranked above the world average in math and science, 8th-graders fell below average, and by the end of high school, U.S. students plummeted to the bottom.
When the TIMSS report was released, President Clinton commented that "America got a wake-up call on education." Actually, it was the country's umpteenth wake-up call including the report called "A Nation At Risk" that was released in 1983. Bringing all of our students down to the lowest common denominator and refusing to let more motivated and talented students reach their learning potential ahead of others is totally unacceptable. Giving our children a lesser education than they are capable of achieving in order to convince them that they must accept menial scale jobs is disgraceful.
There will always be a quotient of potential workers who do not desire higher learning for many reasons, and for them vocational education is a must, but that is for the individual to decide, not the employers of this nation who want entry-level workers.
Junior colleges are meant to be preparatory schools for four-year colleges. They should not change their curriculum to become only vocational training facilities for businesses.
Four-year colleges must raise standards of teaching before future teachers can or will be qualified to teach. Schools must raise their standards of qualifications for teachers. Most public school problems stem from the union. The union stands in the way of firing unqualified teachers, merit raises, standardized testing of teachers, and eliminating tenure. Teachers' salaries have continued to be increased every year, but our children are still failing. We have allowed gross negligence in our schools from elementary through college to undermine the learning and teaching ability of students and teachers.
There is a real danger of changing standardized tests to mask students' inability to perform at acceptable levels. It is easier to lower the standards of testing than it is to bring students up to a level of learning necessary to meet real standards of education.
Competition does not harm children as the self-esteem proclamators would have us believe. Achievement through competition builds self-esteem. Real grades signifying real improvement or need of improvement help children and parents to assess the areas on which they need to concentrate.
The Clinton administration is about a top-down, planned economy, including jobs, health care, and the federal government owning shares of private businesses. The reward to the states for their support for these programs is more federal handouts, but the benefit is not worth the cost. President Clinton just announced in his State of the Union speech that he wants more federal control over schools with federal mandates covering education goals. He also supports increasing numbers of federal healthcare beneficiaries, and the ability to invest social security funds in private investments, which will give his administration unprecedented power to reward his friends and punish his enemies. Federal appropriations for education should be given in the form of block grants without mandates. However, the drive to continue Goals 2000 and School-to-Work does not rest entirely with the federal education bureaucracy. It is just as pervasive at the state and local levels, and must be reversed at every level of education.
If state governors do not want to become puppets of the federal government, they must say no to the nationalization of our schools, our workers, and private businesses.
These are problems that I have been combating for years, and unfortunately, have not been able to defeat in Congress. I will keep trying on the federal level and I hope you, George, will help defeat them at the state level. I promised parents and concerned citizen organizations that I would work with you on education reform, if you recall, at our meeting with them during the campaign. I hope this letter clarifies some of the problems that we have identified in the area of education. I will be happy to meet with you any time in the future to further discuss real school reform. I very much appreciate your time and attention to this very important matter.
Very truly yours,
Editor's note: We would welcome similar letters from Congressmen to their state Governors. Send to: Education Reporter, 7800 Bonhomme, St. Louis, MO 63105, fax (314) 721-3373, email [email protected]