WASHINGTON, DC — George W. Bush is wrong: The biggest problem in public schools is not “moral chaos” but educational chaos — thanks to government schools that endlessly demand more money to hire more teachers, while lowering standards and churning out more functional illiterates, theÂ Libertarian Party charged today.“Government schools can’t teach reading, writing, and arithmetic — why should we trust them to teach morality, respect, and character?” asked Steve Dasbach, the party’s national director. “If public education does for ethics what it’s done for learning, we’ll end up with a generation of immoral, disrespectful, and characterless students.”
On Tuesday, Texas Governor George W. Bush, in a major speech on education in New Hampshire, proposed that public schools must begin to teach “right and wrong” to end the nation’s “moral chaos.”
Bush, the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination, also promised to increase the amount of federal money spent on “promoting character education,” from $8 million to $25 million.
But any effort to “save” the foundering government school system — whether with more federal money, smaller class sizes, or morality-based teaching — is doomed to fail, countered Dasbach.
As evidence, he pointed to 10 “Signposts of Failure” in government schools:
* Between 1960 and 1995, average per-pupil spending in U.S. public schools rose 212% in inflation-adjusted dollars.
* Between 1960 and 1995, the student/teacher ratio has dropped by 35% — from approximately 26 students for every one U.S. public school teacher to only 17.
* Between 1960 and 1995, the average salary of U.S. public school teachers jumped 45% in inflation-adjusted dollars.
* In 1994, fewer than 50% of the personnel employed by U.S. public schools were teachers.
* American 12th graders rank 19th out of 21 industrialized countries in mathematics achievement and 16th out of 21 nations in science.
* In fourth grade, 77% of children in urban high-poverty schools are reading “below basic” levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests.
* Since 1983, over 10 million public school students have reached the 12th grade level without learning to read at the basic level.
* Since 1983, more than 20 million students have reached the 12th grade unable to do basic math.
* Since 1983, more than 25 million students have reached the 12th grade not knowing the essentials of U.S. history.
* In 1995, nearly 30% of first-time college freshmen enrolled in at least one remedial course to compensate for a sub-standard high school education.
“Look at the track record,” said Dasbach. “More funding has been tried. It failed. Smaller classes have been tried. They failed. Higher-priced teachers have been tried. They failed. More educational bureaucrats have been tried. They failed.
“In fact, the only thing we haven’t tried yet is freedom: The freedom of parents to use their own money to send their children to the non-profit, religious, or private school of their choice — non-government schools that effectively teach the values parents want,” he said.
“It’s something that George W. Bush and other Republicans don’t seem to understand: Freedom and responsibility are a prerequisite for morality, respect, and character. So why don’t we try it in education?”