Saturday, September 12, 2009

All Politics---and Education—is Local. Well, Maybe

According to a commentary in the September 10, 2009 online issue of EdWeek, U.S. Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, the public outcry over the President's speech to students was not about indoctrinating our children with socialist philosophy. Mr. Kline believes a more fundamental issue was at stake. More fundamental than socialism? What the president learned this week was that all education, just like all politics, is local.

President Obama delivered a positive, uplifting message to students this week. The fact that many Americans were rubbed the wrong way by what amounted to a federal recommendation about what to teach, and how to teach it, is a signal that no matter how well-intentioned, education reforms simply cannot be dictated from Washington

In Japan, where the national Ministry of Education dictates all sorts of education policies, even in Japan, the nagging and unspoken noise that education is primarily a local issue constantly plays in the background. It is all too true that if the Ministry of Education is for it, then the Japanese teachers union is against it. Japanese teachers spend enormous amounts of time discussing, demonstrating and otherwise agitating against Ministry of Education policies.

If socialist-leaning, group-oriented Japan with its highly centralized education system where every class in the country in any given grade is on the same page of the textbook on any given day finds centrally-dictated policy so onerous, of course, those highly individualistic Americans would be in near revolt over the prospect of education reform dictated from on high.

Mr. Kline suggests the response to the president's speech was symbolic of growing powerless frustration.
...many local communities are growing frustrated as they perceive a more active, intrusive federal government making more and more decisions about how their children are taught.

Maybe you were thinking No Child Left Behind is Exhibit A of an “active, intrusive federal government.” For Mr. Kline, Exhibit A would be the lesson plans the White House provided as a supplement to the speech.

...the nagging fact remains that the federal government—not local teachers or school boards—developed a very specific lesson plan for implementation in classrooms all across the country.

Except... The federal government, as well as many other governmental bodies, have been providing lesson plans for years and years without public protest. One comment to the citation lists a few:
A short list of federal government developed lesson plans:

The National Archives Lesson Plans

National Institute of Health Curriculum Supplements

U.S. Department of Agriculture Lesson Plans

National Park Service Lesson Plans

U.S. Department of Energy Lesson Plans

U.S. Department of State Lesson Plans

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Teacher Lesson Plans

NASA for Educators

FBI for Kindergarten - 5th Grade

CIA for Parents and Teachers

All kinds of entities provide optional lesson plans. It might be as laudable as a public utility promoting energy conservation. It might be construed as inappropriate commercialism exploiting impressionable (and captive) children. All of these publicly available lesson plans optional. I agree with Mr. Kline that “something else is at play.” It was not fear of indoctrination, and it was not the optional lesson plans.

Related Post at School Crossing,When a President Speaks:6 Reasons to Object to Objectors.

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