THE Clinton administration's "Goals 2000" education legislation has reached the Senate, and though the national standards to be promoted are said to be "voluntary," President ++ Clinton in his State of the Union address emphasized that there must be "one" standard for education in the U.S.
In addition, the administration wants the codification of the already declared six national goals, the first of which is that by the year 2000, "all children in America will start school ready to learn." Words like "all" and "will" clash with "voluntary," and it's difficult to see how the administration's goals can be achieved without massive government intervention.
The legislation "establishes in law" the National Education Goals Panel, which will "approve criteria developed by" the National Education Standards and Improvement Council. Anyone knowledgeable about education knows that standards drive curriculum, so we are really talking about a national curriculum. If the curriculum includes something like the disastrous "new math" of the 1960s, the nation is in trouble. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, "Were we directed from Washington when to sow and reap in our schools, we should soon want for bread for the mind."
"Goals 2000" is actually a major step toward the nationalizing of American education. Traditionally, parents have been in charge of the education of their children, but "Goals 2000" emphasizes educational "partnerships," with parents being just one of the "partners," along with businesses, social service agencies and others.
In fact, by codifying the six national goals and nationalizing American education, "Goals 2000" seems to be in violation of federal laws that assign the responsibility of education to the states and prohibit the federal government from exercising any "direction, supervision or control over the curriculum, supervision control over the curriculum, program of instruction . . . of any educational institution, school or school system."
If Congress really wants to improve education, it can call for a return to an emphasis on the academic basics in schools, and it can urge reformers to stop undermining the values parents are ** attempting to instill in their children at home.
D.L. Cuddy worked for the Department of Education in the Reagan administration.