'School to Work' - a stupid idea

The Times Reporter
Dover-New Philadelphia, Ohio
Sunday, March 16, 1997
Commentary by Dick Farrell, Editor

    Listen up, U.S. Reps. Ney and Ralph Regula, state Sen.Greg DiDanato, and state Reps. Kerry Metzger and Jerry Krupinski.

    You may have read or heard something about the national initiative called "School to Work," a well-meaning idea that would, among other things, replace high school diploma with something called a "Certificate of Initial Mastery" which would be awarded to students who are deemed employable by age 16.

    Those who are not eligible would be turned over to something "youth centers" where the state would undertake the task of trying to make these educational misfits into something. Robots, maybe. Who knows.

    Anyway, from what I can gather, he "School to Work" initiative is pretty darn stupid.

    Count me among at least some of the people in this country who believe that traditional education is not broken, that there is no need for a national overhaul of education and that the main purpose of education ought to be something more than just job training.

    Anyway, this "School to Work" initiative is buried deep, or at least disguised, in legislation pending or to be pending in both Washington and Columbus. You might also want to know that Gov. George Voinovich is a proponent of such education reform (but apparently he is not in favor of funding the massive school renovations needed in this state).

    Diana Fessler, a member of the Ohio State Board of Education, has become something of an expert on the initiative. She wrote "A Report on the Word toward National Standards, Assessments, and Certificates" for her colleagues on the state board. The report is some 70 pages long.

    In it she sounds a warning that the nation will commit itself to such an initiative, which grew out of a think tank called the National Center on Education and the Economy, of which Hillary Rodham Clinton was an original board member.

    (Clinton, you remember, was in charge of national health care reform and wrote a book titled "It Takes A Village." She is something of an expert herself, you know.)

    Since she wrote the report last December, Fessler has attended forums large and small, including Washington and Oregon legislative committee hearings and community organized meetings, including one this weekend in Berlin and another in Fredericksburg.

    Certainly Fessler is much kinder than I. She doesn't refer to the idea as ''stupid" or "idiotic" or "absurd." Those are words I would use.

    Here's what she has to say:

    "Traditionally the purpose of education in America has been to transfer the general knowledge, wisdom and values of the previous generation to the young to equip them to realize their God-given potential. It is well known that only in a totalitarian system is education linked directly to the workplace.

    "In I983, Dr. Eugene Maxwell Boyce, professor of education administration at the University of Georgia, and author of 'The Coming Revolution in Education" wrote: 'In the Communist ideology, the function of universal education is clear and easily understood. Education is tied directly to jobs - control of the job being the critical control point in an authoritarian state. No such direct controlled relationship between education and jobs exists in democratic countries.'

    "The National Center on Education and the Economy has been moving their agenda forward ... If children are as important to us as we say they are, we must act responsibly and take corrective action immediately."

    I told you I don't think traditional education needs to be overhauled. But I do think we need to do same things.

    l think we need to fix our school buildings so children find themselves in environments that are conducive to learning I think we need to find a better way to fund day-to-day operations of our school districts.

    I think the National Education Assn. and its child, the Ohio Education Assn., are more concerned with self-preservation than they are with seeing to it that the best teachers are in the classrooms.

    I think we need to pay our better teachers more money and get rid of the bad ones. I think we need realistic guidance counselors.

    I think some Board of Education members have personal agendas instead of public agendas.

    And I think proficiency tests make legislators happy, but have no correlation to students' future success.

    I also believe the most successful of our students will be so because they have been nurtured from Day 1 by caring parents who instill in them the almighty American Work Ethic.

    And, if you haven't noticed, traditional education continues to produce doctors, scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs.

    So, dear congressmen and legislators, don't get caught up in all this talk about a need to reform and overhaul education. And to heck with all those standards, assessments and certificates.

    And when the National Center on Education and the Economy comes calling, just say no.

Dick Farrell is editor of Times Reporter.