What do Louisiana and Oregon have in common on education policy? Well, if you answered “not much” you are generally correct. We know that Louisiana experiences terrible results, while Oregon enjoys good results, at least some of the time. So clearly, they are doing something right and we are not.
But there is a subtle parallel in one area of education implementation. For differing reasons, both highly charged with politics, both Louisiana and Oregon are willing to sacrifice high expectations for their students.
Oregon is considering an overhaul of its math curriculum. No, they are not doing so to enhance student understanding of the language that is math. They are doing so in response to the woke political cry for equity. Their espoused reason is to get racism out of math. They believe that the same math that has built upon for thousands of years has now been determined to be a source of racism.
In woke world education equity is not education equality. Equity is an additional benefit guaranteed to minority students by government to give them an advantage over other students. Equity is based on the misguided belief that today’s white population is culpable for historical wrongs done to minorities and that white people bear a systemic attitude of supremacy; clearly to the woke these are the main reasons that minority children are not doing as well as white children.
Equity is rooted in the belief that outcomes, not opportunities are what are important. Therefore, the woke believe that government must mandate an anti-racism centric curriculum whose goal is not to achieve high standards, but instead designed to achieve identical outcomes.
My suspicion is that Oregon liberals are consumed with guilt because generations ago their first constitution specifically prohibited black Americans from settling there. It seems that they are devoured by a passion by finding racism in everything and to eradicate the original sin of their forebears from every form of education. And because so many minorities struggle with math, that is clear evidence that systemic racism is alive and well in their math curriculum. Hence, they are willing to throw out what had been considered a strong math curriculum and replace it with one that does not require students to get the right answer when applying math. In other times that was called lowering the bar.
This is woke equity at its worst. Deprive students, both majority and minority, of rigor in order to artificially equalize results for all. Destroy the quality of the education of all students by absolving them of high expectations and mandatory commitment. Degrade minorities by promoting the notion that math must be dumbed down by government intervention so that they can succeed as well as everyone else. These attitudes will carry young people far in life, not!
As an aside, on a national scale, liberals are applying much the same logic in many other areas of standards and expectations. Despite their protestations otherwise, the elimination of ACT/SAT requirements from the consideration of college applicants is wholly in response to the cries of equity. Dumb downed college entrance requirements means that if a reasonable number of students are to graduate, college work and student performance must also be dumbed down.
America is sacrificing its higher education institutions and its technological and societal future on the altar of political correctness by letting underprepared students drag down all the rest. Logic would say to bring the underprepared up before they enter post-secondary education, but wokeness would have us lower the bar for all to guarantee outcomes.
The same holds for the reconfiguration of history curriculum. Gone are the elements that highlighted the amazing accomplishments of our forefathers and our nation, and in their place has been inserted a mea culpa for perceived evils. Future generations of Americans will have nothing but negative beliefs about their nation’s history, a history filled with dazzling achievement solely because of intellectual freedom, not because of the dogma of uniform wokeness. But building negative feelings toward our nation clears the way for far-left efforts to gain power and, as we know, the far-left is in control of education.
But how does all that relate to Louisiana? In my three terms in the Senate, I learned some bitter lessons about Louisiana’s education system. Most people do not know that until a few years ago Louisiana students were graded on a 200-point scale. Simply put, if a student had brought home to parents a test on which he/she had scored 80%, in actually they had only gotten 40% right. Was that done to help students? Of course not, it was done to protect the education establishment by hiding results from parents.
In 2012 we passed the strongest education reform measures in the history of the state. These were based to a great extent on raising standards and strengthening accountability. And ever since 2012, these measures have been quietly watered down, selectively ignored, or selectively implemented. Just as with the dumbed down scoring method that we finally fixed; the reason was the same, protect the education establishment from the consequences of bad results. Keep the citizens ignorant.
As I said the parallel with Oregon was subtle. Oregon is willing to lower the bar on its standards in order to implement political equity. Louisiana has been willing to dumb down its standards and their application to protect the education establishment. The parallel is that for differing political reasons, having nothing to do with education, these two states are willing to sacrifice the future of their children by lowering standards and watering down accountability.
Let’s be politically incorrect for a moment. If I were czar of these two states, I would dash the barriers to education accomplishment by implementing straightforward policies that put children first. No political tampering with curriculum, no dumbing down results to provide a desired outcome. In my worldview, to provide a strong future for children, non-education centric issues must be dispensed with. I would not care a bit about protecting adults or their foibles, my only focus would be on the education of all children and any adult that had an alternative different focus would have to go. The results would take time, but since petty politics would not drive my every decision, the kids would be the beneficiaries of a world beating education.
I will never be the czar, so I am afraid that the politics of wokeness and of protectionism for the status quo will always supplant the needs of future generations. In our time of liberal dominance of the education establishment, the erosion of education in the United States by those who see it as a means to some political end has taken hold. Oregon is not the only example of the politicization of education; its tentacles have already infiltrated further than we possibly could believe.
Trust me, our international competitors are joyful as we self-immolate our proud nation on the altar of political correctness and protection of the education establishment. They know that they can only overtake America if their children achieve educational success under high standards, even as ours do not. And we are helping them every step of the way.