For centuries ivory tower academics controlled education. They decided what was taught, how it was taught, when it was taught, and to whom it was taught. As public education evolved, politicians became their allies, and in some cases their masters. Liberal politicians hand out money “for the kids”, and in return the academics advance their left wing objectives. Consider some recent changes: reducing teaching civics and history, cutting reading the classics, and turning classrooms into laboratories for “innovative methods”. How many different ways have academics experimented with to teach basic mathematics in the past 75 years or so? Can kids figure out 2×2 any better today than they could back then? Politicians are obsessed with being “fair”, so schools eliminate grades, homework, and give everyone an award for showing up. Standardized tests are “dumbed down”. Then parents wonder why colleges need remedial high school courses, employers wonder why young employees lack good communication and math skills, and many wonder why young people can’t handle real life (which is not fair). Academics and politicians have third partner: textbook publishers. Every time academics decide that the teaching methodology of a subject like mathematics has to change, those companies reap a windfall. Likewise when politicians decide that a subject like history needs to be presented with a different slant, e.g., don’t love your country, hate it, because what happened 200 years ago is YOUR fault. Technology companies have latched on to the “spend-spend-spend” profiteering of textbook publishers. The kids must have absolutely the latest technology. Does anyone care what it’s being used for (or isn’t)? Do local school administrators even know what the latest technology is or are they buying into to sales pitches? Since the Feds began their takeover of public education in the 1970’s the US has spent over one trillion dollars on education but it’s nowhere near number one in achievement internationally.
There are signs that the winds are shifting. President Trump selected a businessperson for Secretary of Education. In the state of New Hampshire, the Republican governor selected a businessperson for Education Commissioner. Business people know that money is neither free nor unlimited. They understand “return on investment”. They know, as academics should, that one size does not fit all, so they’re more supportive of alternatives to public schools like charter schools, magnet school, private schools, and home schooling. Common Core is a win for liberal politicians who seek to indoctrinate children with “common values” but a loss for states, parents, taxpayers, and the kids.
But… sometimes the winds shift the other way too. New York state was praised for requiring a literacy test for teaching candidates. After all, literacy is the foundation of learning. Well, the liberals are considering abolishing the test because minorities have more difficulty in passing it. One candidate complained about the test being given on a computer. What does that person expect to see in a modern classroom? Once again we see the best interests of the students being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.