OPEN LETTER TO MARGARET SPELLINGS
By Lynn Stuter
May 5, 2005
Dear Ms Spellings,
You start your editorial by saying that three years ago, the stars aligned. What, may I ask, has that got to do with education reform? Or do you believe that the aligning of these stars produced a magical effect upon psyche of earthlings?
As for the American people deciding three years ago that it was “finally time to reform our public schools”, exactly where did you come up with that notion? No Child Left Behind is the strategic continuation of education transformation that hit full force in the late 80’s, early 90’s, and is based on systems theory. I’m not sure why the Republicans continue to try and claim that NCLB is somehow taking education a different direction than the path initiated by President George W Bush’s father in the early 90’s augmented by the man who would succeed the elder Bush as President, William Jefferson Clinton. Democrat or Republican, it makes no difference, the agenda has become one, whether we are talking about education or anything else.
You speak of accountability plans being in place. How, Ms Spellings, do you define “accountability”? I’m sure the American people will be surprised by your answer, if you are truthful that is. Accountability under systems education does not mean what the average American thinks it means as I’m sure you are well aware. There is no accountability to the people or parents, either for what children are being taught or the money being spent to teach them what they are being taught. Accountability, under systems education, is to the system — does the child demonstrate the wanted behaviors as a result of his/her education to date?
You state that some states are “trying to see how far they can stray from the law without getting grounded and losing federal funds.” Are you making a threat, Ms Spellings? Isn’t this statement contradictory to the claim of the feds all along that NCLB is “voluntary”? What, are you finally admitting that if the states don’t do what you want, you will drop the very large and very persuasive federal hammer on their heads? Whatever happened to the 10th Amendment, Ms Spellings? You are aware of that particular Amendment are you not?
And speaking of which, where in the Constitution has the federal government ever been mandated a role in education? Is your very position as “Secretary of Education” not unconstitutional? You speak of the states breaking the law, what of your own position, Ms Spellings?
You state you have taken a “common-sense approach to the implementation of NCLB”, pray tell how can you take a common-sense approach to a law that defies common sense?
You claim “What gets measured, gets done.” But what are you measuring, Ms Spelling? Are you measuring children’s knowledge of math, science, history, English, geography, reading — the old basics — or are you measuring attitudes? Assessments are about process defined as “behavior/procedure” — does the child demonstrate the wanted behavior/procedure. Please explain to all us out here what is academic about a subjective measuring stick? Wouldn’t you agree that how a child feels about math or the environment or anything else is not an objective academic measure of what the child knows age-appropriate and can apply to formulate a reasoned conclusion?
So it is ironic that the lawsuit that has been filed against you states that NCLB is “forcing school districts to spend too much on education” is it? We can deduce from this that you believe the more money spent, the better the product? Why hasn’t this ever been proven to be true? Putting your quip in context, would you go out and buy a car made of cardboard just because the price tag was $100,000?
Over and above this, school districts and states are going broke at a rapid rate. The cost of education transformation in relation to the result of the same is tantamount to flushing money down the commode. And besides, as I’m sure you are aware, the goal is to achieve the result, the money spent in the process is irrelevant. Isn’t it nice that our government can spend so irresponsibly at the expense of the taxpayers? What happens when the taxpayers can no longer afford the tax bill, Ms Spellings? Do you foresee rebellion such as the quip that NCLB is “forcing school districts to spend too much on education”? Do you foresee rebellion such as is happening in Washington state where people are passing initiatives right and left curbing the ability of the state to raise tax rates? Do you foresee rebellion when people discover the outrageous cost to score one assessment, especially when the scores are unreliable because they are based on subjective rubrics?
You say the “achievement gap is finally starting to close.” It is? How do you know it is when the “bar” for passing the assessment keeps getting lowered because the assessment is about attitude not knowledge and the application of knowledge?
You “look forward to the day when all groups can put politics aside and focus on helping school children receive the education that a nation such as ours is certainly capable of providing.” On that, Ms Spellings, you and I agree. However, systems education isn’t going to achieve that end. And throwing good money after bad isn’t going to achieve that end either. What will achieve that end is for the federal government to abide the 10th Amendment and respect state’s rights. That, of course, means that you will be out of a job and millions of taxpayer dollars will be saved; accountability will return to parents and taxpayers where it belongs; and the local schools will become local again instead of puppets to the federal power grab.
In final, this writer predicted that Utah would capitulate to federal pressure to conform. I would like to say “I was wrong.” However, I’ve not seen nor read the law passed by Utah to know whether it is the “real deal” or whether it isn’t.
© 2005 Lynn M. Stuter - All Rights Reserved
Mother and wife, Stuter has spent the past ten years researching systems theory with a particular emphasis on education. She home schooled two daughters, now grown and on their own. She has worked with legislators, both state and federal, on issues pertaining to systems governance and education reform. She networks nationwide with other researchers and citizens concerned with the transformation of our nation. She has traveled the United States and lived overseas. Web site: www.learn-usa.com E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Over and above this, school districts and states are going broke at a rapid rate. The cost of education transformation in relation to the result of the same is tantamount to flushing money down the commode.