Is the federal government taking over local schools? Perhaps.
The controversial Common Core project and new higher education initiatives voiced by President Obama during his recent bus tour indicate parents and school boards will have even less control over the education process. America not only survived without the creation of the federal Department of Education (1979) but thrived.
As education expert Yong Zhao wrote in The Washington Post, the standard will introduce “a new world of education where all American children are exposed to the same content, delivered by highly standardized teachers, watched over by their equally standardized principals, and monitored by governments armed with sophisticated data tools.” Zhao is residential chair and associate dean for global education at the University of Oregon’s College of Education
Thus, libertarians ever watchful for federal government overreach likely gasped out loud when Obama expressed another plan, this one for higher education in America. The president also stated during his bus tour that while some of his plans are subject to Congressional approval and will likely be upheld by partisanship, he can enact portions of the proposal on his own.
Obama said that higher education should not be considered a “luxury” and everyone should be able to get it.
Contrary to what some may believe, though, intervention by the government is not required to solve either perceived or real problems. College education does offer advantages but is too over-priced for everyone to attend without assuming years of debt after graduation. Not every middle class career requires a college degree. Many plumbers, electricians and mechanics, just to name a few, run very successful small businesses after completing vocational training in high school or at an adult career center.
Professors are allowed to require as many books as they desire for their classes, including works they created themselves. This aspect of the higher education racket drastically increases the cost of going to college for middle class Americans who do not qualify for financial aid. I recently paid $200 for a two-inch-thick paperback for a marketing class – which only had to be opened about five times the entire semester.
The president’s higher education plan includes a new government rating system and will be used as the basis for allocating federal financial aid. The president’s college rating system will be based at least in part on how affordable a college is. While such a plan might sound good at first glance, it can actually do harm. Harvard will obviously not score well on the per-credit-hour fee scale. If the Ivy League school loses access to some financial aid dollars, the rural or inner-city student accepted into the elite university may have to settle for city college after all.
The average student loan debt accrued when graduating from a college is approximately $26,000. Critics say if both the public school system and the higher education system would stand up to teachers’ unions and professors, the affordability problem could be curtailed without Uncle Sam flexing his muscles at all. Teacher tenure is one of the most illogical mandates in educator contracts. The inability to terminate substandard teachers and professors due to tenure harms both the education process and the school’s pocket book.
Some have labeled the new program higher education’s version of No Child Left Behind.
But much is not known. Said American Council on Education President Molly Corbett, “This is extraordinary stuff, and it’s not clear we have the complete data or accurate data.”
Until the complete proposal has been shared with both the public and Congress, we have no idea to what extent the federal government will control the higher education system in America.