WBEN.com and Buffalo's Early News take a look Thursday with a range of commentary, opinion and interviews.
" I think it is (broken)... We know that for the last several years people have been dissatisfied with schools.
There have been many, many attempts to reform them, and all the efforts have failed. And so I think it's time.. to say these systems are not working well,"
-- Attorney James Ostrowski of FreeBuffalo.org
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" There are certainly challenges in the educational system, but no, I would disagree with the statement that the educational system is broken, "
-- Prof John Siskar, Interim Director, Center for Excellence in Urban and Rural Education (CEURE) at Buffalo State College.
"There are districts who are performing, structurally, organizationally at very different rates. Buffalo everyone acknowledges has been struggling in that area. It is a structure that doesn't align with meeting it's goals very well," Siskar says.
WEB EXTRA: Hear More With Siskar on Socio-Economic Troubles Some School Systems Face
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RELATED: Business First's Annual Rankings of WNY School Districts
East Aurora moved up to grab second place and Clarence slipped to third this year, while Orchard Park and Iroquois round out the top five.
Buffalo is Exceptional... thankfully:
"The only one that is a little bit worse, not by much, but is bad is Rochester. Syracuse is coming along, Yonkers has shown improvement over the last five years and New York City is indescribable,"
--Robert Bennett, Chancellor Emeritus, NYS Board of Regents
"The vast majority of school districts are doing a very very good job under very trying conditions. There are a number of school districts for decades for a number of years, have been performing poorly."
-- NYS Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, a member of the Senate Education committee
Don't look for Carl Paladino to ease slowly into his latest role as a member of the Buffalo School Board. .
The outspoken developer has prepared a list of 32 issue items that the board sent for further study Wednesday night. One of them is a call for Superintendent Pamela Brown's resignation or dismissal.
He says he also wants to restructure board meetings because the "feel-good" items that start the meetings now leave observers "yawning and catatonic" by the time important issues come up.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" is misspelled as "The Great Gypsy." And author Emily Bronte is listed as Emily Bonte.
According to Newsday and News 12 Long Island those are just a few of the more than 30 errors on the list provided by the Hempstead Public Schools.
In a statement, a member of the New York State Department of Education's Board of Regents said the mistakes indicated that a stable administration was essential for children to get a good education. The statement said, "Hempstead has not had a stable administration for a long time and the kids are suffering."
Hempstead Superintendent Susan Johnson didn't immediately return a call for comment.
A Real Education
Attorney James Ostrowski is the author of "Government Schools Are Bad for Your Kids" and the founder of FreeBuffalo.org. This commentary is one of his frequent contributions to the libertarian Ludwig Von Mises Institute, online at mises.org.
Buffalo's Early News
Hear More From Ostrowski.
A Conversation in Four Parts
with WBEN's John Zach & Susan Rose
With Dan Miner,
The Chances For Reform
Parents Have Options
"The single greatest obstacle to creating a free society is government's control over education. Government dictates that children attend a school, and taxpayers pay enormous sums to subsidize "free" government schools. The frightening result is that the vast majority of citizens--nearly 90 percent--end up sending their children to government-subsidized schools.
The government school monopoly strengthens the state and harms the cause of liberty in many ways. On the state and local levels, education accounts for an enormous percentage of expenditures. It is absurd to suggest, as most Republican candidates do, that they will cut the size of state government but not touch the school system. Federal expenditures on education are still relatively small, but wait five minutes: the foot is in the door.
Next comes the complex web of educational special interest groups: teachers and their unions, suppliers, publishers, administrators, and even parents who get a free babysitting service. Three million government schoolteachers form a powerful army for statism. Since every subsidy is an argument for every other subsidy, the education lobby rolls logs with the best of them. They support not only the cause of ever-greater expenditures on education, but also the entire statist program of endlessly creative wealth redistribution and the ever-increasing bureaucratization and regulation of society.
Most importantly, public schools allow government to determine the political ideas that children are allowed to learn about. Libertarians are always struck by the consistently statist perspective exhibited by the vast majority of government school inmates and parolees. These students just "know" that we needed the Constitution because the nation was in chaos, FDR saved us from the Great Depression, and TR saved us from the "robber barons."
Such ideas and more and worse are inculcated in young minds when they are soft and malleable. They gradually harden like concrete long before any of our libertarian institutions can supply an antidote. Is it not the case that most lovers of liberty formed their views as teenagers or young adults? I personally do not know a single person who became a libertarian after age thirty. You have to get them while they're young or forget them. Presently, that task is impossible.
The present ban on religion in government schools aids the statist viewpoint. As all totalitarian regimes know, religions posit a scheme of values prior to and superior to the state. It is not the case, however, that no religion is taught in government schools. If religion is broadly defined to include even "one's ultimate concern," it becomes obvious that the religion taught in government schools is that interventionist government is the ultimate human value. Government schools forbid the teaching of any religion but state worship.
Government schools introduce and reinforce the bureaucratic mentality, the opposite of a free and spontaneous attitude toward life. To the bureaucratic mind, life is about unthinking adherence to a set of arbitrary rules of behavior established by superiors in a chain of command. No heavy thinking is required; just follow orders.
By their very nature, such rules do not differentiate between individuals, but treat all as a mass. Twelve years of habituation to such a mode of living generally inoculates students from resistance to the bureaucratic state they will be suffering under for the remainder of their lives.
Though many government school products survive the experience with their minds intact, many hundreds of thousands emerge ill-equipped, intellectually or morally, to function independently in today's world. These misfits fill out the ranks of petty criminals, welfare recipients, drug users, and beggars of one form or another. Naturally, the existence of such folk leads to calls for more social service programs, police, prisons, and more spending on education! In this way, government creates its own demand, as the failure of one government program provides the impetus for the next one.
It is therefore no exaggeration to state that government control over education is the ultimate foundation of statism today. No substantial progress for liberty will occur unless this foundation is cracked. How do we go about this? Our only choices are to revolt, reform, or withdraw. Leaving revolt to a far corner of our minds for the time being, we are left with reform or withdrawal.
Can government schools be reformed? No. The only viable reform option on the table is vouchers. As Lew Rockwell took the lead in pointing out, vouchers do not move us in the direction of a free market in education. Rather, they constitute a form of educational socialism for the middle class. They provide an excuse for the total regulation of private schools as a condition of funding. "Whose bread I eat, his song I must sing."
Beyond the weakness of the leading proposal for reform, there is the sheer impossibility of defeating the education lobby in the political arena. These special interests simply care more about stopping reform than the reformers do about enacting it. They have more bodies prepared to spend more money, time, and energy. They vote early and often. The laws of rational apathy and rational ignorance protect the present system as they protect all other aspects of the statist system. Reform will not be enacted, and even if it is, it will increase, not decrease, the size and power of government.
Private schools, in the short run, are not the answer. There are too few of them. Those close by tend to be too secular or too religious or the wrong religion, depending on one's point of view. Further, millions of parents, already taxed to death to support public schools, cannot presently afford expensive private schools.
Which leaves only one alternative; withdrawal. This is commonly referred to as home schooling. The spontaneous growth of the home-schooling movement with close to two million students has begun to capture public attention. I am not prepared to say that home schooling is the ideal form of education for everyone. I am prepared to say with certainty that it is the only political strategy that can destroy the public school monster.
Let's make the first day of government school a national day of home schooling. Imagine the embarrassment for the educational establishment if the classrooms were empty on the first day of school. Suppose they gave a bad education and nobody came? In our government-school-induced, semi-literate culture, that picture would be worth a thousand words.