Moms and Dads, when you looked into your newborn’s eyes for the first time, did you think, I wonder what job our government will steer our baby into?
A merger of the Department of Education (DOE) with the Department of Labor (DOL) is about just that.
Here’s a quote from this administration’s manual called “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization” (p.23-28).
The workforce development program consolidation would centralize and better coordinate Federal efforts to train the American workforce, reduce administrative costs, and make it easier for States and localities to run programs to meet the comprehensive needs of their workforce. (p.23)
Where is the word child or teen in that quote?
Chances are when you looked into your baby’s eyes, you weren’t thinking of the government at all.
No, when you marveled at the miracle of your child, your hopes were, and still are, for them, not a government that caters to corporations.
The recent announcement that President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are going to combine the DOE and the DOL, worries both Republican and Democratic parents.
We have listened for years about the importance of a prepared workforce, 21st century skills, and global economic needs. And we have watched business interject their ideology into public schools, changing the landscape in a variety of ways, including charters, vouchers, Common Core State Standards, technology, all unproven, but thought to be better for the economy.
Poor schools reduced their curriculum to the basics, and all students have been browbeaten by high-stakes testing. The achievement fever always attached itself to the “better workforce” message and how to make more money. It has never been about the child.
More and more we have also watched as schools push learning that is developmentally unjustified into earlier grades. Even middle schools now focus on getting children to know about skills and career options, before they know enough subject matter to understand what they are truly good at doing!
In North Dakota, they are pushing high school juniors and seniors to get into the workforce before they graduate!
What parent wants their child to be used this way? Words like “alignment” and “steering” have no place in a school curriculum.
While a good government should forecast the kinds of jobs that will be available in the future, its focus should be on the students themselves, and what will help them make the best career choice. It should be about helping students realize their interests and their hopes for the future.
That focus should include how to help young people get to college without incurring terrible debt.
We should quit trying to fund two education systems, charters and public schools, and shore up one dynamic public school system that serves the diverse needs of everyone.
Helping children find their way in a difficult and changing world is reasonable. Steering children into jobs that meet the needs of a corrupt government, that does not treasure the dreams of its children, is not the America we believe in.
Denis Ian says
You’re worried about the government? I’m worried about the schools. And what the DoE has done to them already.
The entire universe of education has been turned inside out over the last decade. Never before have the wishes and concerns of those most vested in public schools … parents and teachers … been so summarily disregarded by bureaucratic double-speak and political bunk.
Kindergarten is now the Boot Camp Moment. Classroom drill instructors seem unbothered shoving 70 month-olds into a rush-hour of academic traffic … because some basement gnome alleges it’s the ideal moment to vaccinate them with “grit” and “rigor”.
The elementary time seems destined to be called the Tablet Years. The Mario Bros. Educational Principles will rule the day as students win points and pile up Magical No. 2 Pencils as they are prompted from one level to the next. Competency-based-education will erase all of those annoying human variables and every learner who reaches Level Extreme will see their names glitter in on-screen pixie dust.
Middle school will usher in The Skinner Stage … when on-screen accountability and specially-tapered curricula designs will suffocate all of those aggravating teenage twitches and quirks. School magistrates will homogenize this stage of maturity so that no nail stands up … and individuality is mocked as antithetical narcissism that is thoroughly unacceptable. Creativity will be dubbed a day-dreaming activity … time-consuming musing more symptomatic of a sloth than of genius
High school will be The Divergent Time… when, at long last, the future of every young adult will become crystal clear. Youngsters will be endlessly nudged in this or that career pathway … justified by the overwhelming mounds of data that can be Hansel and Greteled all the way back to the days when joy was first run out of their very brand-new lives.
Do you mean to say that the federal government … by lessening the footprint and dimming it’s spotlight of the DoE… will have more blast on the lives of children that what happened when the DoE was under the steam-rolling management of Duncan and King?
Nancy Bailey says
No! I’m worried about the students.
Good leaders from both sides of the aisle, committed to great public education that respects the state and the local influence on schools is what I’d like to see. We need good leaders with the state and local school areas too!
I would say the corruption started much further in the past with the adoption of Milton Friedman’s ideas during the Reagan administration, and A Nation at Risk. No President from either party since has pushed back.
I am not against a decent DOE that puts children first.
Paul Adcock says
The federal government should never have gotten involved in education. This began during LBJ’s time with the ESEA and HEA, though others like Rockefeller and Dewey already dreamed of this evil system.
No, the federal DOE and DOL, as well as the state DOEs must all go, as must the ESSA and their plans to reauthorize the HEA.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you for your comment, Paul, but it sounds like you are not in favor of public education. With no rules there would be no schools. Ninety percent of our children attend public schools. Where would they go?
After ESEA, as a teacher, I saw some positive changes for students with disabilities who were terribly neglected. I’m not certain how students would learn without any system. IDEA is a federal program. It’s the best thing students with special needs have going. There are other programs too. Just because there are problems, doesn’t mean DOE couldn’t be run better.
This is what happens when the government is in charge of things like education…education becomes what the government needs/wants it to be not about what is in the best interest of the child.
Nancy Bailey says
Christi, a good government would put the children first. I blame the corporations who have a huge effect on the government and how schools are run.
I do not think waiting or hoping for good leaders is something we should depend on. It’s not really how our government works. I consider myself a firm believer and advocate for true public education, and I have come to the conclusion that the Department of Education might have been a big mistake. I bet there were advocates of all types back then that saw the creation of a powerful DOE as a way to overcome huge barriers and fix a lot of wrongs. For the most part it worked, at least in the begining. The problem is that the government is nothing more than people. What was once a government agency that created stronger public schools for everyone, in the blink of a new election cycle, became an agency that reversed those gains. Betsy DeVos is the logical conclusion of a powerful government agency that has been controlled by neo-liberal and neo-con ideology from both parties for as long as I can remember. Expecting or hoping this to eventually turn around is naive. The Diane Ravitch’s of the world cannot keep up the effort to prevent the destruction of our public schools forever. They might win small victories here and there, but they are no match for the federal government, corporate power, and the propaganda of a 24 hour news cycle that is hell bent on the privitization of a $500 billion dollar per year public good.
I honestly don’t know how we get out of this mess. Resistance may be futile, but I’m prepared to go down swinging. Thank you Nancy for your great writing and reporting.
Nancy Bailey says
I agree with most of what you say, Bill, but I do believe that we can put better leaders in place. Unfortunately, corporations currently have too much power in that process. Still, I think that is the key. Thank you though for such wise words.
Cindy Rose says
You don’t need the USDoE to follow IDEA. The federal laws can remain and the DoE can be closed. Local Boards of Education is where all the power should be. You give the parents the power through Due Process where the burden of proof is on the School, not the parents. If the parents win the tax payer has to foot the bill. This will ensure the tax payer elects BoE members who are responsive to the needs of the community and upholding the laws.
The problems now come from lack of accountability. Parents cannot afford to hold their elected officials and bureaucrats accountable and they know it.
Nancy Bailey says
I support school boards and local control, but without state and federal rules and involvement, I highly doubt every school district would do the right thing.
I think your second paragraph implies that. Thanks, Cindy.
No accountability system is perfect. My son is disabled. He was discriminated against because he is disabled. The US Dept. of Education Civil Rights division said his school did nothing wrong. The evidence was clear. He was the only child not allowed to refuse because he couldn’t verbalize a refusal. Everyone else could so they got to refuse.
I can get swifter justice locally.
Nancy Bailey says
I am not clear about what happened with your son, but I am assuming he could not refuse testing. I’m wondering how the local school district helped you with this and why everyone else got out of the test.
IDEA? Also, with the USDOE ed. secretaries both Dems. and especially with DeVos, we have seen a push to dissolve services. That doesn’t mean mandates surrounding the importance of serving students with disabilities from the federal govt. is bad. It should be keeping the state and local school districts doing the right thing!
I’m absolutely OK with the US Dept. of Education staying in it’s lane of “oversight”. Parents should keep the ability to seek resolution at the federal level when all attempts at the local level have failed and when local jurisdictions aren’t abiding by laws.
Yes, my son was not allowed to refuse. I fought for a refusal policy, which our school has now adopted. My point was that even on the federal level, there are failures. I want the lions share of control to be at the local level. I want my local school board to be responsive to parents and fear their power to control the school system. They answer to us.