Letters to the Editor: Response to Roper; Public education anemic
Response to Roper - Part I
In a recent Banner column, Rob Roper, of the Ethan Allen Institute, presented his case that a carbon tax is bad, that it would hurt Vermont's economy. But he said nothing whatsoever about the two very powerful and undeniably effective purposes of that tax (which will have to wait for another column). Any school tax of any size could also be shown to be bad for the economy, if you don't mention that education may also be a rather fine thing for the economy, in the long term. And we need to think long term. So, while I think it is deceptive to present the bad without the good, I acknowledge Rob's right to freedom of speech.
However, when I hear someone, in the newspaper or online, I want to know who is really speaking, and why. I want to know if I am listening to someone who has studied an issue and is telling me his honest and educated opinion, as an ethical journalist or scientist, or if I am just listening to a paid commercial. I believe that Rob is simply a lobbyist, which is "someone hired by a business or a cause to persuade legislators to support that business or cause", according to vocabulary.com. The Ethan Allen Institute is the Vermont chapter of the State Policy Network. Every state has one, and bigger states have two. In Kentucky they're the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy, and in New Hampshire, they're the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy. (And if Ethan and Josiah were alive today, they'd be turning over in their graves...) The State Policy Network is an $83 million enterprise, and a large part of those dollars come from the Koch brothers, who own enormous coal-oil-and-gas companies and who are deadly opposed to renewable energy. A person paid by the Koch brothers is quite assuredly telling you the Koch brothers's message, and those boys want desperately to continue selling you gasoline. For 40 years, we listened to "science" on cigarettes from people who were paid by the cigarette companies, and millions died without learning the truth. But fortunately, another generation comes along with clean lungs and we get another chance. We won't get another chance with our only atmosphere. So let's turn off the infomercials about our supposedly unlimited energy supply and our atmosphere that can't be harmed.
Public education is anemic
Every community will defend the quality of their education system. Even failed schools are touted as being outstanding. School board's and administration officials all focus on improving outcomes and then brag about their accomplishments.
Facts don't cease to exists because they are ignored. Since the 1970's American students have averaged the same sagging test scores while education spending and regulations have soared three fold. Parents are oblivious to these findings and even with a decline in reading efficiency there's been a surge in grade point averages over that time frame due to grade inflation and social promotions.
Among students who graduate a two-year college data shows 20 percent are proficient in math; one-third of four-year college graduates do not improve their "critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills" during their entire time in college.
Current public school monopolies and teacher union control, which limit little or no choice in school selection, are breeding mediocrity. To improve education outcomes, Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize winning economists, advocated competition through school choice by giving vouchers to parents for selecting the best school for children. Harvard Professor Caroline Hoxby found that students attending charter schools scored higher in proficiency tests than those attending public schools.
For generations our schools have suffered from education stagnation despite increased spending, less focus on basics, reduced class sizes and advances in technology. We need elected officials to seek more creative thinking and bold action, not solutions that call for more money and smaller classrooms. That formula doesn't work.
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