Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If I Were President - Education Policy

Generally not as spicy as policies about abortion or gun control, Presidential candidate's stands on education make up part of the profile or platform of a candidate for President.   Generally this question, like many others, is posed in a way that asks what a Candidate would like to do to "fix" problems in education.  And generally candidates reply with actions they would like to take, laws they would like to sign, programs they would like to create and so forth.  Basically it boils down to a, "Lets use the POWER of government to FORCE education improvements." Or something like that.

This is completely the opposite view that I hold on how to address education.

Questions like, "Do you support requiring states to implement education reforms in order to be eligible for federal grants?"  or "Would you support school vouchers programs?"  or  "Do you support nation wide standardized tests?"  as so forth.  They are all based on the preconception that the federal government should use its coercive power to fix perceived problems of educational performance.

Here is what I would like to see.  If I were president I would get the federal government out of the classrooms, out of school districts and out of the way of the education systems of citys, counties, and states.

No Constitutional Justification

I see no constitutional justification for us having a Department of Education for more than conducting surveys and gathering statistics.  And then publishing its findings.

And I see no reason that the federal government should be spending or sending money to school districts.

Education is the prerogative of the parents of children, then the districts, cities, or counties that they reside in.  Where state governments have been empowered to administer state wide programs, they should do so as they see fit as long as they retain that mandate from their citizens.

No Child Compelled

No child of a citizen should be compelled to attend any school at any time except by their parents or guardians.  Schools should endeavor to find and implement the most efficient means possible to educate children and are held accountable solely by the parents or guardians of those children.

There are a multitude of ways to educate a person.  Success is determined by the result.  If a teaching method works, use it.

There is a question of what works and how will we know?  These are not real questions.  We know how to teach, we have been teaching our children for thousands of years, and there are obvious ways to do this obvious thing.  And we know how to find out if it is working, we simply ask the student to demonstrate their knowledge.

Parents should conduct these tests.  Asking the school to verify education is like asking the pie maker if his pies are good.

Perfect World?

In a perfect world, schools would become private enterprises where parents would enrole their child to get them the best education they can.  Schools would compete the same way any competitive industry competes to get more students by providing what the customers, parents, want.

It is not the Federal Governments job to impose a perfect world.  This will always fail.  The best we can do, it get the Federal Government out of the way so that people and markets can create that perfect world or as close to it as humanly possible.

If I were president?

I would get the federal government out of the way of parents and education.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Critical Thinking Fed Flag

I am a promoter of critical thinking and critical analysis.  This does not mean that I go around criticizing people or ideas.  (I do that, but this is not what it means.)  What it does mean is that I examine arguments and statements with an eye that looks for logical flaws.

One of my pet peeves is the attack the messenger argument.  This is a form of a Straw Man logical fallacy where the actual statements and arguments are disregarded and the history or credentials of the person making them are examined.

My example is like this.

Man One says, "Rain gets people wet because rain in composed of water."

Responding to him, Man Two says,  "We can't trust anything Man One said, because he sells raincoats for a living, and his wife sells umbrellas."

Here is the problem, we haven't had any argument or evidence that discounts the argument of Man One, but he is now somehow on the defensive, and everyone goes away wondering if rain is really a cause of wetness.

But a critical thinker totally ignores Man Two's statement.  He is not confused except by why Man Two is making irrelevant statements when we are talking about things that make us wet, not people vocation.

A more reacent one is an man who has spent his life learning about oil production gets on TV or radio to talk about energy.  He is really smart and if we actually listened to what he had to say, we would all understand energy better.  But the reporter or windmill guy, attacks him based on the fact that "Big Oil" is paying him.  He works for them.  So we can't trust what he has to say.

It drives me nuts.

The latest one for me was just this morning.  Some dude starts writing that the some of the same people that are talking up Mit Romney's qualifications also promoted people that were unsuccessful or not as qualified in the past.

What is the problem?  Who is talking about Mit's qualifications have nothing or extremely little to do with those actual qualifications.  But by tying Romney to these other people that were unsuccessful in the past by virtu of their supporters we are using a fallacy to tarnish his accomplishments and qualifications.

It drives me nuts again.

If you have something to say, then say it.  Say that you don't think a guy who has a track record of turning financially struggling organizations around will be bad for the economy.  (Both private and public sector.)  Say that a guy that professes faith in Christ is not a christian.  (BTW the name of the church is "The Church of JESUS CHRIST of latter day saints")  Say that a guy that is getting more support and delegates than any other candidate running in his party is not a "True Conservative".

Lets debate those and any other point.  But lets please do it directly.