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Volume III, Number 7, Summer, 2005

Soviet Style Planning in the Good Old USA?

By Jamie McKenzie (About author)

Top down, federal dictation of educational policy is fundamentally un-American and undemocratic. For decades we were raised to view the Russian and Chinese state management of economies and societies as a bureaucratic nightmare.

"Big government is bad," we were told. "Bureaucrats are too far from the people they serve. Their rules are rigid. They make decisions without understanding their impact."

The best policy is made by those close to the schools and the businesses of the land. Let state politicians make the laws and regulations for schools and businesses except in rare cases when there is some special national interest as in the case of the stock market (The Securities and Exchange Commission) or radio and TV (The Federal Communications Commission.)

Huge national bureaucracies, we were told, would bog down in red tape and ill-conceived master plans that would never match the superior results of local government and free enterprise.

When the Berlin Wall came tumbling down and the USSR and China embraced capitalism, we cheered the end of Five Year Plans and Stalinesque approaches to managing economies.

Now in 2005 we find ourselves suffering through a bureaucratic nightmare of federal planning for education that suffers from many of the same weaknesses we expected from Stalin's heavy-handed, overly centralized controls.

The current national educational policy is laced with contradictions and double standards, as regulations are tightened on public schools while experimental charter schools and various privatization schemes are treated to unconscionable levels of license.

The fist of the educational empress is poised to punish those who would criticize, challenge or argue against the double standards and inconsistencies.

Note this month's article, "Adding Insult to Injury."

This approach to school reform is heavy-handed and wrong-minded.

Whenever these federal functionaries start telling states and schools what is best for them, we should consider their track records in states like Texas and their lack of educational expertise. While they are quick to give advice, their own track record for reform is tainted.

One need only look at the gap between state proficiency levels as claimed by Texas and the results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress to see that these are the wrong people to be giving advice or imposing mandates of any kind. See article, "The Performance Gap." The huge disparity between the drop out rate and attrition rate during the Bush governorship (When Secretary Spellings was his educational adviser) also casts doubt on the credibility of her advice and dictates. See article. "A Lost Generation? A Million Left Behind?"

© 2005, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved. This article may be e-mailed to individuals by individuals, but all other duplication, distribution, publication and use is prohibited without first receiving explicit permission. Contact for information.
Volume III, Number 4, April, 2005