AMERICANS will buy anything that's called "new and improved." At least that's the attitude of the Bush administration, which has announced plans for new and improved schools in the United States.
For while the Bush plan talks grandly about a "new generation" of public schools, the proposals do little to attack the termites eating away at the foundation of education.
George Bush said during his campaign that he wanted to be the "education president." More than two years after he took office, remembering the president's bold promises, you think of Peggy Lee singing "Is That All There Is?"
Children in Japan and Germany attend school 60 and 40 more days respectively, than American public school students. But longer school days and longer school years are barely mentioned. Nor is there a clarion call that American students need to do more homework. There is also no direct challenge to the biggest obstacle: the education bureaucracy.
In fairness to the president, setting national education policy in the United States is hard. In Japan and Germany, one policy fits all. But America has 50 states, each with its own bureaucracy and its own ideas about what's best.
That's not all bad. But schools suffer less from a lack of innovation than from clogged arteries. Schools need less bureaucracy, less incompetence, less paper work and more money. Try selling that, Mr. President.