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Friday, January 15, 2010

Punish the Soldiers

The war isn't going well in Afghanistan. We can pretend that it's bad policy by the government, insufficient resources, and a culture that is opposed to freedom which are to blame, but this is simply making excuses. The problem, as we all know deep down, is that our soldiers are just not good enough.

There are a few things that would be effective to remedy this. We could order less-effective battalions to get rid of at least half of their troops, and trade with other battalions. We could demote generals and captains who lost battles. We could require that all new soldiers retrain for a new environment that does not so much "fight" a "war," but build peace. We could fire those soldiers who fought in losing campaigns, and hire new ones...

Okay, enough with the horse manure. You must have guessed by now that I'm being completely facetious. However, the same logic I used to make the above stupid argument is that being used by our state governments and President Obama by embracing the ill-advised Race to the Top program for our public schools.

The war we are fighting is that of ignorance. Just as there are hot spots for terrorism, there are hot spots for ignorance. These are the areas which historically score low on whatever standardized test is placed before them. Just as our soldiers fight a culture that fails to value liberty, we are fighting a culture that fails to value education and personal responsibility.

It is unwise and unfair to punish the troops.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats understand why things are difficult in school. To use a different analogy, let us liken the public school system to a burning building. Democrats would argue that we ought to smother the building with wood. Let's throw more money into a failing system, they argue. That'll fix everything! Republicans would punish the firefighters while simultaneously taking away their hoses.

There is one and only one solution to failing schools, and that is the recognition that they are full of failing students. This fact never makes it into the public discourse, but it is the one unmistakable difference between the high and the low. We will never address the issue if we never admit it exists. The assumption that all students have the right to learn is based upon the false assumption that all of them want to learn.

I say, allow students who do not cooperate to fail school. Make the same tests we use to measure the effectiveness of schools measure the effectiveness of students. Do not let them enter the next grade unless they pass the test. It is ridiculous to hold a school accountable for a test for which students are unaccountable.

Whatever you do, don't punish those who are fighting your battles for you. It's a tough enough mission without that.