GOALS 2000, A BAD BILL
Frank Brown is a professor of economics at De Paul University and the chairman of the National Association for Personal Rights in Education.
It is difficult to believe that an American legislature could enact Goals 2000, a bill ill-equipped to attain its stated purpose of helping reform American schooling, but yet both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have passed versions of this bill and now are in conference to draw up a compromise. There are compelling reasons to defeat this bill and, if it is passed, to challenge it in federal and state legislatures and courts and in the public forum. Three main criticisms will be given here.
FEDERALIZATION OF SCHOOLING
Through Goals 2000 the federal government, having no constitutional authority over schooling but yet having often usurped power in this field, would take a giant step toward seizing sweeping control over the schooling of American children, a goal for which educational nationalists have fought since the 1820s and toward which the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is such a significant precedent.
Goals 2000 would establish national goals, curriculum, testing, and teacher certification in a discipline that cries out for parental and local control.
Goals 2000 would give federal bureaucrats authority to restructure state education and thus ultimately to minimize the independence of state public schooling. The bill speaks often about the voluntary participation of states in federal programs, but who can doubt that the weight of federal funding — the present billions in ESEA money and the dollars expected to flow from Goals 2000 — will bring the state schools under federal control?
Goals 2000 would shamefully interfere with the family, compounding with federal regulations the burdens parents and students now endure under state control. A meddlesome aspect is its "school-to-work" program, which mandates that each secondary school student will have a government facilitator employed at the school to follow the student through school and into a job.
Senatorial and other champions of Goals 2000 deny that the federal government will take over state schooling, but the government teachers and their legislative friends are too well- known for writing laws that can later be expanded to justify further-reaching policies. Furthermore, many senators believe that Goals 2000 spells federal control over state schooling, with Sen. Moynihan asking 'Why deny it?'
UNAWARENESS OF REASONS FOR SCHOOLING DECLINE
Goals 2000 shows no awareness of the real reasons for the decline in the quality of the schooling of American children.
The state public school system was a product of mid-19th century America, with its model being the Massachusetts program engineered by Horace Mann and his Unitarian allies in Harvard University and the Boston business community.
In its earlier decades this system had some worthwhile achievements, but in recent decades the quality of schooling has declined dramatically.
The early state schooling was based primarily on the following values: that the child has an intellect and a free will; that the child should be educated and not manipulated; that the school is to be a partner with the family in the formation of the character of the students; that moral and Protestant religious influences, including prayer and the reading of the Bible, should be an integral part of the life of the school; that the human capital of the students should be developed through intensive work and firm discipline; and that the students should be given a sense of responsible individualism.
But such values have largely been eliminated — and deliberately so — from public schools by the psychological and behavioristic teachings of such professors as Wundt, Hall, Dewey, Skinner, Watson, Simon, Rogers, Maslow, Kohlberg, Spady, and others, many of them at one time or other members of the psychology departments of such influential universities as Harvard, Columbia, and Chicago, and many of them secular humanists or atheists or agnostics.
This victory of what can be called a "psychology revolution" has brought into the public schools (and many private ones) the following developments: the expansion of behaviorism and the stimulus response (S-R) technique, with students to be manipulated rather than educated; the establishment of an atheistic or agnostic or relativistic religious environment, with the former Protestant morality and religious practices being eliminated; confusion about or even denial of the view that the student has an intellect and a free will as these faculties have been traditionally understood; the freedom of students to do their own thing; emphasis on the socialization of the children in preparation for a socialistic order in this country; and the growth of a playground mentality.
The preparation of teachers has been weakened through the displacing of courses in academic content with those in methods of teaching. If American students are near the bottom in achievement in mathematics and science in competition with the students of other industrialized cultures, it is because many of their teachers — especially at the elementary school level — have been overloaded with courses in methods of teaching and do not know enough mathematics and science to teach at a high-quality level.
Values clarification is promoted as a method for students to clear up their own thinking and values, but is designed to break the bond between the student and the parents. There are many other psychological techniques, moral dilemmas, and games unacceptable to parents, as detailed in Phyllis Schlafly's Child Abuse in the Classroom.
In recent years the psychological orthodoxy has been the untested Outcome-Based Education (OBE), which like Mastery Learning and earlier versions elevates affective learning (emotions, psychologizing) over cognitive learning (reading, writing, arithmetic).
A particularly tragic development has been the abandonment of the phonics method of teaching reading, with which previous generations attained a commendable national literacy, for a whole word process now producing a shameful array of illiterates.
Many American parents complain about the intellectual and moral failures within the schools, but the deeply entrenched system survives, holding fiercely to its monopoly of the education taxation, praising itself, blaming families, condemning legislatures for not supplying more funds, and organizing politically to defend its preferential but undeserved position in this society.
Nothing seems capable of uncovering for this society the reasons for the decline in state schooling stemming from the wide scale loss of intellectual and moral values in the schooling of teachers and students alike.
One might reasonably expect the highly publicized report A Nation at Risk— with its conclusion that if a foreign nation had done what this nation has done to American schools it would be an occasion for a declaration of war — might have jarred this country into an awareness of the academic sickness in the government school system.
Goals 2000 speaks glowingly of great reforms, of every child being ready for school by 2000, and of 90% high school graduation rates by 2000, but such statements are largely publicity claims with but little substance.
Who is going to bring about the reforms? Will it be the same people who have largely destroyed the present system? Will it be the National Education Association (NEA) and allies salivating at the expectation of the coming flow of federal dollars? Will it be some national board members speaking about quality education, but yet without the slightest idea of what the problems are? Will it be politicians under the control of teachers' unions?
UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE SYSTEM
In assessing the constitutionality of the state public school system and of its growing federalization, two principles must be highlighted.
First, every individual parent and student — every family — has in the area of schooling personal civil and constitutional rights to academic freedom, to religious liberty, and to equal protection of the laws. These personal rights stand on their own and should not be minimized or destroyed by reason of any relationship between the state and any church or school.
Second, with schooling a matter of religious conscience for many families, the state school may not give preferential tax support to one religion over others.
Horace Mann's school failed on both counts. He overran the rights of parents and students by making the state the sole tax-supported schoolteacher of the children of the public, taking as his model the Prussian state school system. He used public taxation to benefit one religion over another by enshrining Unitarianism in the state school in order to undermine the Congregationalism then-dominant in the local common schools.
Adopting Mann's model, the mid-19th century Protestant hegemony — mainly Unitarians, Methodists, Baptists in cooperation with Masons and Know-Nothings — filled the land with the Protestantized state public school.
The Protestant power called its new institution a public school, declared it open to all children, appropriated for it a monopoly of the schooling taxation collected from the public, and told dissenting families that if they enrolled in private schools, even one in accord with their conscience, they had to forfeit a share of the education taxation, even their own, and that if they could not find alternative schooling they had to turn their children over to the state schoolteachers.
This Prussian import violated American principles of democracy and constitutionality by denying the personal rights of dissenting parents and students to education tax equity and violated the rights of dissenting educators, including churches, by giving Protestantism preferential tax support in an alleged public school.
Today many Protestants have fled the public school while others doggedly support it, but even they should realize that Protestantism has largely been ousted from the public schools by the secular humanistic psychological takeover.
Now the question: Is the present academically weak and psychologically damaged state public school constitutional and deserving of government tax preference?
The answer is no.
The present state school would have the public believe that, since it has removed almost all of the Protestant religious values, including such practices as prayer and Bible reading, it has reached a neutral, secular, and constitutional status, one that is reasonably acceptable to all the families of this society, but this is not so.
There are theological, religious, and moral dimensions in the values that fill schools. Is the human being a creature of God or the product of a long evolutionary line without reference to a deity? Is there a true God or is there no god or many gods and does it make any difference or are we all gods together with the animals and trees as the pantheism of the New Age religion propounds in some of the schools? Is there sin? What is a family? When does life begin? Is there a right or wrong and, if so, on what grounds?
Whether the secular humanism or atheism which is winning in the state schools is considered as a religion or as neutral to religion or as an opponent of religion, it is irreconcilably hostile to the once dominant Protestantism and to Catholicism and to other religions.
In his book Psychological Seduction, William Kirk Kilpatrick asserts that the dominant secular humanistic psychology is a faith competing with religion. It has indeed become a new established religion. It violates the constitutional rights of families (parents and students) and competing educators.
What is so ironic in this matter is that while this society speaks about having done away with an established church, it has through its public school system created one of the most dangerous establishments — one hostile to traditional religions — in history. That this establishment has as well contributed so heavily to the breakdown of the academic development of the students makes it all the more undesirable and nonproductive. That it also bears a heavy responsibility for the lessening of the moral tone in this society is also a matter for intense examination.
Why does the state public school system which in so many important ways is intellectually and morally bankrupt still survive? Why is it considered for expansion through Goals 2000?
For one thing, it has been allowed to exist for 150 years with the privilege of monopolizing the education tax dollar to fill the minds of children with its claims.
But, despite all the tax dollars put into it, this institution is not capable of doing a highly effective job for the children and for this society and this nation.
This country must seriously reexamine the history, validity, efficiency, and constitutionality of this system.
Drastic changes are needed. American families must be provided with tax-supported choice as they sometimes had before the Mann state program. Choice worked magnificently with the GI Bill of Rights. It is working magnificently for many college and university students on the federal and state levels.
Goals 2000 is not the answer. It should be stopped. But if it does pass, then the process of dismantling its preferential tax status should be started in the federal and state legislatures and courts.
The March 24, 1994 issue of