To those who want to see real improvement in American education, I say: There will be no renaissance without revolution. ...What were those goals?
We've made a good beginning by setting the nation's sights on six ambitious National Education Goals.
...George H. W. Bush, (April 18,1991)
By the year 2000Seventy-six trombones lead the big parade… to nowhere. Were these targets met by 2000? No. Have they been met by 2013? No.
1. All children in America will start school ready to learn.
2. The high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent.
3. American students will leave grades four, eight, and twelve having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science, history, and geography; and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so that they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our modern economy.
4. U.S. students will be first in the world in science and mathematics achievement.
5. Every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
6. Every school in America will be free of drugs and violence and will offer a disciplined environment conducive to learning.
-- America 2000: an educational strategy (DOE, 1991) p.3,
What were these “educational revolutionaries” thinking? How were decades-, even centuries-old impediments to be identified and addressed? Where was the money for this revolution to come from? Who had which responsibilities? Who would hold their feet to the fire to make sure they came through?
Think of the all planning costs of this debacle: the per-hour payments to discussion participants for attendance, room and travel; the trees sacrificed to recording what was best bound for recycle; the tons of sitzfleisch constrained to aching fallow; and, worst of all, the ultimate disappointment and cynicism provoked in reaction to its failure.
Did anyone in 1991 stand up and rage against the presumption, the hubris, the wishful thinking underlying these “visions?” If they did they were ignored, invisible to our media, our bulwarks of democracy. Not one trombonist, not even one piccolo player wanted to know of anyone trying to piss on their parade.
Does anyone today hang their head in shame, or even offer a vague apology, for having participated in this scam? Why should they? There is an escape clause written right into the document that relieved these planners and prognosticators of their responsibility for failure:
Without a strong commitment and concerted effort on the part of every sector and every citizen to improve dramatically the performance of the nation’s educational system and each and every student, these goals will remain nothing more than a distant, unattainable vision. -- America 2000, p.41
See, folks? It wasn't our marching band or our paraders at fault! The critical word in the previous paragraph is "every." America 2000 failed likely because some kid, somewhere, bugged out of his responsibilities -- probably didn't do his homework -- that brought our parade, our crusade, to a halt. (And wasted all that time, effort and money.)
For references and to examine these issues further, see America 2000: an educational strategy