So now I read that the members of the Douglas County School Board have endorsed Mitt Romney for President. It's a puzzling message on at least two levels.
First, they took pains to say that this was not an official board resolution. That part's good; by statute, school boards are non-partisan, and have no official role in influencing voter selection of national political candidates. But board members also took care to point out that this was a unanimous decision by all of them.
So ... is it a school board action, or not? Clearly, it violates the spirit of non-partisanship. While I staunchly support free speech, particularly about political issues, I have taken great pains through the years to make it clear that I speak for myself. Here, the attempt seems to be to give the appearance of institutional action.
Second, the reason they articulated for endorsing Romney was that he will help "get the federal government out of education." They're entitled to that opinion, too. But it's tough to defend.
The premise seems to be this: local experimentation, the application of market pressure to public education, will result in swift improvement in academic achievement. That improvement will then be adopted by others.
But of course, it hasn't, doesn't, and won't work like that. Everybody knows that when you move from state to state, or from district to district within the state, or from school to school within the district, or even from the same grade's class to class within the school, there is wide variance of both curriculum and instructional approach.
And not to put too fine a point on it, but after all this experimentation and "local control," the United States isn't even in the top twenty internationally for math and science. (See the Programme for International Student Assessment.)
Who IS in the top twenty? Those educational systems that adopt a uniform national curriculum.
In other words, the tenets of our school board and the educational philosophy of Mr. Romney have already been contradicted by decades of data. Our local Board and their preferred presidential candidate support a failed approach, and reject the likeliest path for improvement.
The issue, apparently, has nothing to do with evidence. It has everything to do with politics.
These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation.
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