Diane Ravitch was one of the architects of No Child Left Behind, but in her new book she now admits that it isn’t working, and is in fact helping kill the kind of education she advocates. She continues to believe that the American public schools do a poor job, and that we can build a much more successful system of public education.
I agree with her on the first point. She’s dead wrong on the second. We can’t build a better system.
That’s not a cry of despair, it’s a statement of fact. There is never going to be a national school system much better than what we have now. It may get worse, but it won’t get much better.
We could build a better school system by the simple expedient of abolishing the Department of Education. Some of us thought we could manage that when Reagan was swept into office, but the liberal establishment with the support of the teachers unions wouldn’t permit that: and Reagan needed Congressional support for his defense measures. Some of us remember that when Reagan took office, only ten years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States looked to be in bad shape, with too many overseas commitments — what Walter Lippman called drafts on our power — and too little actual power, either military or diplomatic. The military needed a big shakeup and buildup, we needed to look into our overseas commitments, financial reforms were desperately needed, and the liberals, knowing all this, were willing to help — provided that they got their share of liberal programs. The Department of Education was one of their bastions, and they would fight to the death — or at least to the death of the Republic — to prevent it from being abolished.
Less centralization, including the breakup of big districts would be a great step forward.