In Brief: the 2008 GOP National Platform – Education

The next chapter in the National Platform is on Education – here is the title and the section headings:

Education Means a More Competitive America

Principles for Elementary and Secondary Education

Early Childhood Education

Giving Students the Best Teachers

Asserting Family Rights in Schooling

Reviewing the Federal Role in Primary and Secondary Education

Maintaining our Commitment to IDEA

Higher Education

Meeting College Costs

Innovation Will Lead to Lifelong Learning

Community Colleges Continue to Play a Crucial Role

Special Challenges in Higher Education

It opens with a good sentence:

“Education is a parental right, a state and local responsibility, and a national strategic interest.”

Read those first five words again: EDUCATION IS A PARENTAL RIGHT. Too bad that’s just talk. Republicans from coast to coast had better stop using these words if they don’t mean them – or the party will never recover its credibility.

The U.S. Supreme Court agrees with the Republican Party’s National Platform, but as long as 50 state legislatures and thousands of school districts from coast to coast act as slave owners, the words “parental right” are meaningless.

As the private school and home schooling communities are well aware, government education bureaucrats act as if the children belong to them first – and permission must be granted for parents to exercise their “rights.” Why? Because the kids are money and nothing is more important to the education blob than their bottom line.

Ask parents who have confronted the public schools about curriculum issues. Many so-called “education professionals” use the classroom for propaganda, and what is taught is all manner of cultural pollution. If education was really a parental right, the K-12 blob would never get away with what they do.

The platform section on education is relatively short – so there’s no need to spend much time on it except to highlight the better principles which are outlined amidst the happy talk reminiscent of the “it’s for the kids” type rhetoric.

In the introductory comments is this (emphasis added):

“Education is essential to competitiveness, but it is more than just training for the work force of the future. It is through education that we ensure the transmission of a culture, a set of values we hold in common. It has prepared generations for responsible citizenship in a free society, and it must continue to do so. Our party is committed to restoring the civic mission of schools envisioned by the founders of the American public school system. Civic education, both in the classroom and through service learning, should be a cornerstone of American public education and should be central to future school reform efforts.”

By no stretch of the imagination has the Republican Party been serious about following through on that kind of commitment. For over a quarter of a century school reform experts have been outlining the path that should be followed for publicly funded K-12 schools. Yet the vast majority of school children in government run schools continue to be ill-served, despite skyrocketing spending for decades.

Under “Principles for Elementary and Secondary Education” is this (bullet point format is mine):

“We reaffirm the principles that have been the foundation of the nation’s educational progress toward that goal: accountability for student academic achievement; periodic testing on the fundamentals of learning,

  • especially math and reading,
  • history and geography;
  • transparency, so parents and the general public know which schools best serve their students;
  • and flexibility and freedom to innovate so schools and districts can best meet the needs of their students.”

What we have now is AWOL Republican legislative leadership taking PAC money from teacher unions.

“We reject a one-size-fits-all approach and support parental options, including home schooling, and local innovations such as schools or classes for boys only or for girls only and alternative and innovative school schedules.

We recognize and appreciate the importance of innovative education environments, particularly homeschooling, for stimulating academic achievement.”

Under “Asserting Family Rights in Schooling”:

“Parents should be able to decide the learning environment that is best for their child. We support choice in education for all families, especially those with children trapped in dangerous and failing schools, whether through charter schools, vouchers or tax credits for attending faith-based or other non-public schools, or the option of home schooling.”

Someday when elected Republicans get serious about education reform (let alone get serious about their own Party’s Platform) we’ll see actual progress instead of just baby steps in that direction.

Anyone who might question the tone of my review of this chapter in the Platform should consider that throughout the 1980s and as late as 1996 the GOP Platform called for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education. In ’96 it read:

“The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place. This is why we will abolish the Department of Education, end federal meddling in our schools, and promote family choice at all levels of learning.”

In 2001 President George W. Bush passed the “No Child Left Behind” law and the rest is history – federal spending on education exploded. The 2008 GOP Platform meekly has this section heading:

Reviewing the Federal Role in Primary and Secondary Education

The section on higher education contains a lot of lofty rhetoric. Real Republicans would be better served spending time learning about the topic at the website of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

This Platform section, however, is worth posting and reading in full:

Community Colleges Continue to Play a Crucial Role

Community colleges are central to the future of higher education, especially as they build bridges between the world of work and the classroom. Many of our returning veterans find community colleges to be welcoming environments where they can develop specific skills for use in the civilian workforce. As the first responders to economic development and retraining of workers, these schools fulfill our national commitment of an affordable and readily accessible education for all.”

Up next: Crime.