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Running Into a Smackdown

April 21, 2009

I’ve always liked Juan Williams.  He was host of Talk of the Nation on NPR back when I listened to it regularly (in CA, I have a better station for listening in OR).  I usually appreciate his viewpoints on Fox, though maybe he’s deciding that being more controversial will get him more attention these days.

Anyway, I was pointed to this post from him, and I believe it’s well-thought in its arguments.

The cause of my upset is watching the key civil rights issue of this generation — improving big city public school education — get tossed overboard by political gamesmanship. If there is one goal that deserves to be held above day-to-day partisanship and pettiness of ordinary politics it is the effort to end the scandalous poor level of academic achievement and abysmally high drop-out rates for America’s black and Hispanic students.

Williams is a passionate proponent of helping the underpriveledged students, and he’s legitimately upset with what he believes is political maneuvering to block a program that has shown results.

What happened, according to a Department of Education study, is that after three years the voucher students scored 3.7 months higher on reading than students who remained in the D.C. schools. In addition, students who came into the D.C. voucher program when it first started had a 19 month advantage in reading after three years in private schools.

Referring to this as, “a sin against our children,” goes right along with my feelings.  As I’ve said before, my education was private and was paid for over and above what my family paid into the public systems we didn’t use.  So was this, but it was focused on people who couldn’t otherwise afford that private education.

In an environment where there’s no competition, the leader gets lazy.  I’ve seen it in high tech repeatedly… at Intel we traditionally do best when AMD is on our heels.  Microsoft has improved their OS quality as Linux and Mac have become more credible.  If the public schools are so good, maybe we can prove that by showing that private education isn’t needed.  But removing that stick doesn’t entice them to be anything other than average.  Or worse.

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