Walter Williams evaluates American academic performance

The article is here in The left is always complaining that they need more money to raise test scores, and that schools are underfunded. But is more money the answer?


The teaching establishment and politicians have hoodwinked taxpayers into believing that more money is needed to improve education. The Washington, D.C., school budget is about the nation’s costliest, spending about $15,000 per pupil. Its student/teacher ratio, at 15.2 to 1, is lower than the nation’s average. Yet student achievement is just about the lowest in the nation. What’s so callous about the Washington situation is about 1,700 children in kindergarten through 12th grade receive the $7,500 annual scholarships in order to escape rotten D.C. public schools, and four times as many apply for the scholarships, yet Congress, beholden to the education establishment, will end funding the school voucher program.

Teacher’s unions are not interested in being paid to perform, they want to be paid regardless of whether they perform. That is why they oppose voucher programs, which give parents a choice. If parents can choose, then schools that insist on retaining teachers who can’t teach will finally come under pressure to fire those teachers and find some better ones. More money thrown into the fire is not the answer.

Williams continues:

Any long-term solution to our education problems requires the decentralization that can come from competition. Centralization has been massive. In 1930, there were 119,000 school districts across the U.S; today, there are less than 15,000. Control has moved from local communities to the school district, to the state, and to the federal government. Public education has become a highly centralized government-backed monopoly and we shouldn’t be surprised by the results. It’s a no-brainer that the areas of our lives with the greatest innovation, tailoring of services to individual wants and falling prices are the areas where there is ruthless competition such as computers, food, telephone and clothing industries, and delivery companies such as UPS, Federal Express and electronic bill payments that have begun to undermine the postal monopoly in first-class mail.

Here is an article from the extremely left-wing Los Angeles Times that explains what it takes for a school to succeed. A school needs stay away from unions and educational bureaucrats, and stick with the basics: math, reading, writing and discipline. Let’s take a look at an Oakland school that serves the poorest, underprivileged minorities, but still manages to deliver the goods.

What kind of teachers teach in the American Indian Public Charter schools?

We are looking for hard working people who believe in free market capitalism. . . . Multicultural specialists, ultra liberal zealots and college-tainted oppression liberators need not apply.”

Good start. But are they “progressive”?

That, it turns out, is just the beginning of the ways in which American Indian Public Charter and its two sibling schools spit in the eye of mainstream education. These small, no-frills, independent public schools in the hardscrabble flats of Oakland sometimes seem like creations of television’s “Colbert Report.” They mock liberal orthodoxy with such zeal that it can seem like a parody.

Well, surely they must embrace teacher’s unions?

School administrators take pride in their record of frequently firing teachers they consider to be underperforming. Unions are embraced with the same warmth accorded “self-esteem experts, panhandlers, drug dealers and those snapping turtles who refuse to put forth their best effort,” to quote the school’s website.

But what about the need for compassion, tolerance and empathy?

Conservatives, including columnist George Will, adore the American Indian schools, which they see as models of a “new paternalism” that could close the gap between the haves and have-nots in American education. Not surprisingly, many Bay Area liberals have a hard time embracing an educational philosophy that proudly proclaims that it “does not preach or subscribe to the demagoguery of tolerance.”

The LA Times article shows that conservative, anti-union schools work for the poorest children. But there are challenges that are blocking the expansion of charter schools, such as “hostile state legislatures and arbitrary caps”, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Their article cites Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) as follows:

These caps are often the consequence of legislative trade-off – representing political deal-making designed to appease special interests who prefer the status quo rather than reasoned education policy. As a result of the caps, children across the country now languish on daunting wait lists, just waiting to enroll in the public school of their choice, simply because it happens to operate as a charter. An estimated 365,000 students are on charter school wait lists today. That’s enough students to fully enroll 1,100 new averaged-size charter schools.

As I discussed before, there are almost no males involved in education in the classroom, which means that the classrooms will emphasize compassion, tolerance, equal outcomes, non-judgmentalism and self-esteem. Competition and excellence are definitely out. In order for Americans to continue to have the same level of prosperity, we need to focus on academic excellence, not secular-leftist indoctrination.

One thought on “Walter Williams evaluates American academic performance”

  1. As soon as someone can explain to me how Amish children (at the eight grade level and at $100 a pupil) out-perform public school kids at the same grade level but have 1000% (minimum) more spent on them, I’d reconsider my stance that the public school system is little more than a make-work program for a bunch of incompetents/malcontents.

    Note: feel free to Google up that Amish info–should be pretty easy to find as I found it a few months back after a meager, half-assed, search or two.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s