I'm a bad citizen: I haven't been paying attention to Madison's upcoming school election. I've head my head down over a different community project with enormous potential for Madison (stay tuned!).
But perhaps our local Glenn Beck fan club should be paying attention. Tuesday's election has the potential to advance the cause of socialism. No, it's not the opt-out: the level of socialism caused by that levy won't change, since the opt-out only sustains the additional taxes we've been paying for the last few years (and is probably necessary to make up for the money Russ Olson took away from the schools during the legislative session).
The new socialism lurks in the school board candidates' responses to a question about national education standards. The Madison Daily Leader asked candidates Ryan Hegg, Tom Farrell, Paul Weist, and Janice Weber their whether they thought national standards are a good idea. Weist was all about them. Hegg also seemed pretty positive. I think Farrell offered a little hesitation (my wife composted Friday's paper already, so I can't check). Weber offered the clearest pro-con analysis, noting national standards might actually be a step down from current state standards and could cost us money.
National education standards are one topic where I put my conservative local-control hat back on (hey! it still fits!). National standards are at best useless, at worst inimical to good education. Heck, I don't even like state standards. When I was teaching high school, state standards created nothing but paperwork as we teachers tried to shoe-horn the good things we were already teaching into rubrics and plans that fit the verbiage generated by committees and bureaucrats in Pierre.
Standards from a central office in Pierre or Washington do nothing to help good teachers provide students good education. They deny the ability of teachers to determine what is best for their students. They take away the autonomy of communities to craft educational programs that best meet their unique needs. And they increase the chances that your curriculum and schoolbooks will be hijacked by narrow-minded ideologues at either end of the political spectrum.
If Madison's education system is so great (and not one of the candidates identified a single thing in our school district that needs changing, not even the dwindling of the high school's most important speech and civics education program), why do we need standards from Washignton or Pierre to tell us what to do? National standards are a waste of time and another sign that we don't believe in our own teachers and our own ability to do school right.
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