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Insights: Politics

Arianna Huffington
From the Print Edition:
Rudy Giuliani, Nov/Dec 01

When it comes to the budget, education is clearly George W. Bush's fair-haired child. While most federal programs are being sent to their rooms without supper, the president's signature issue is being treated to a big spending increase.

But the response is completely inadequate to the magnitude of the crisis, for what we are facing is nothing less than an educational catastrophe, with 37 percent of fourth-graders unable to read.

Sadly, the solution the president and Congress are offering is little more than a watery bouillabaisse of warmed-over measures, a bipartisan betrayal that reinforces the worst aspects of the status quo: the standardization of education, the destruction of critical thinking, the categorizing of millions of our kids as failures.

"We stand," Bush proclaimed this summer, "on the verge of dramatic improvements for America's public schools."

Trust me, we don't. Anyone who has been following the long- running charade that Washington calls education reform should be experiencing a "dramatic" sense of déjà vu right about now.

Bill Clinton in 1998 promised that his "proposals" would "result in dramatic improvements of our schools." What was Clinton's plan? Nearly identical to Bush's: smaller classes, better teaching, higher standards, expanded choice, more discipline, greater accountability.

Or, for more of the same, you can flash back to W's dad asserting his bold commitment to "revolutionize America's schools."

"By the year 2000," Bush pere vowed in his 1990 State of the Union address, "U.S. students must be the first in the world in math and science achievement. Every American adult must be a skilled, literate worker and citizen…The nation will not accept anything less than excellence in education."

I hate to break it to the former president, but the latest international rankings show that, among 21 nations, only those educational powerhouses South Africa and Cyprus fared worse than the 12th graders tested in the United States in both math and science.

Far from accepting nothing less than excellence, we've grown accustomed to the system's chronic failure, content to point out the occasional jewel spotted amid the dung: a marvelous charter school here, an inner-city academy there. And nothing in the current legislation will disrupt the downward slide that guarantees that by the end of the Bush administration things will only have gotten worse.


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