In 1976, America stood as a nation that had lost its innocence. We had a political party in charge of the Executive Branch that most of our nation was extremely angry with, we were suffering economic problems which had stemmed primarily from poor fiscal decision making which included a purposeful inflation of our currency. There was an energy crisis, and plenty of finger pointing over a corrupt Administration which had been guilty of engaging in felonious behavior. Out of the blue, a relatively young charismatic figure burst onto the scene promising hope and change. His famous smile, and promise of a new culture coupled with his assurances that his method of respecting human rights around the world would restore our global standing with friend and foe alike helped sweep him into our highest office. His campaign was based on empty platitudes, soaring rhetoric, and already failed economic theory known as the Keynesian School.
By 1980, Americans had invented a thing called a Misery Index which served to highlight the failures of the President, his policies, and just generally how disillusioned we all were. Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, The L.A. Times, and just about every other major print news organization ran very well written articles posing the question of just how impossible the job of being President had become, and could anybody actually perform the task. After all, we were all assured that Jimmy Carter was indeed the smartest man to ever hold his office, and if he was a miserable failure, than there truly was no one capable of performing this impossible task of being the nation’s chief executive. While it is true that Jimmy Carter, “inherited,” most of the problems that he faced as President, it is also true that he made each and every one of the problems inherited worse. By the time the general election of 1980 rolled around, every polling organization told us that the election was too close to call. The day after the election, Jimmy Carter had managed to replace George McGovern as the worst landslide butt whooping recipient in our 204 year history. America had had enough of hope and change, at least for the next 28 years it would seem.
If that story seems familiar with another charismatic come from nowhere President, that just means that you are paying attention. What we Americans have such a hard time learning however is that the consequences of our actions have effects which last much longer than the immediate time frame in which they are implemented. Looking over Jimmy Carter’s legacy, since his policies are the spitting image of those policies being inflicted upon us today by our current President, we can see that many of the problems that we face today are as a direct result of electing Jimmy Carter President 32 years ago.
The Department of Education was established as a manufactured outrage to raise our national test scores. It seems that allowing local control of our schools had been producing students who supposedly were not competing favorably with students in the same age group from foreign nations. The whole concept was to give us the gift of a government bureaucracy which would aid the local school boards in raising our education standards to the levels seen in other industrialized nations. The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was split into the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services. At the time, America ranked fourth on a standardized scale of measuring student success.
So, here we are 32 years later, and how did it all work out for us. Today, America ranks 26th, on that very same same standardized scale of measuring student success. The Department of Education is entirely at the control of the Public Teachers Union, and the more money we pour into the system to educate our young, the more that money is not used to actually educate our kids, but instead used to line the pockets of the bureaucrats and politicians who are controlling the purse strings. Consider this for one moment, our school districts in this country which spend the most per student, are coincidentally the worst performing school districts. Washington D.C. and Detroit top that list as the most expensive per student districts in the nation. On average, private schools have a cost of one half the cost associated per student as the public system, and yet, the students produced by that system have College Board test scores which are laughably higher than their public system counterparts.
What we get now are excuses such as, “they teach to the test.” I am still waiting for someone to explain to me why that is bad, even if it were true, which has yet to be proven. We are told that if we did not have wars to pay for, or a military to feed, we would be able to spend even more on education. Every school district in the nation is constantly putting a bond issue on the ballot to increase taxes for every single election, and the promised improvements never seem to happen. Since the advent of the Department of Education, our children are less capable of performing the most mundane of academic tasks, but somehow feel much better about their capabilities. The result of course is a large collection of 20 something thugs banded together occupying every down town area in the country with Sociology degrees that they have just realized nobody with work to be performed finds useful.
Dennis Miller once asked this wise beyond belief question.
Do We really want to send our children out into the shit storm that is adult life completely unprepared? Rather than giving them a degree in Sociology, we should teach them to just repeat, “do you want fries with that today sir?”
Knowing that our children can not multiply two by two, but do understand how the number four feels is only the second scariest thing about all of this is to me. Knowing that this highly unpopular and only 32 year old federal bureaucracy, which was established by our least popular and generally recognized as our worst ever President, is so entrenched into our psyche, that the thought of removing it causes widespread panic and heart palpitations. The Department of Education has not achieved its original mandate. It has not shown any success at all, and yet, we still insist on treating it as though it were an indispensable piece of America itself.
When I was a retail manager, working for the F.W. Woolworth Company, I would sometimes interview college graduates for our Assistant Manager Training Program. During the 1980’s, these fresh faced little tykes would line up and proclaim themselves to be worth $50,000 per year. My response was always the same. “Why stop there? I am sure that your mother would tell me that you are worth $1 Million per year. The problem you see is that you need to be worth it to somebody. For us here at the Woolworth Company, an assistant manager learning how to run a Woolworth store is worth $300 per week.”
The problem is not that our students today are not learning anything. It is that they are not learning anything useful. They are learning how to be good communist citizens just fine. Unfortunately, in a free market system, being a good communist will lead to nothing but a collection of spoiled disillusioned thugs demanding that someone else put food on their tables and supply them with free ipads and such.
Next Friday my look at the Carter Legacy will continue with the Department of Energy.
Tags: Department of Education