Email L. Henry Platt, Jr.
FEDERAL AID TO EDUCATION
Let us begin with the place of greatest federal involvement in the public schools: the District of Columbia. At least 99% of the nation's schools are better than the public schools in our nation's capital. More students from the District attend private schools, and more of the buildings are more decrepit than 98% of the rest of the nation. Congress has more control over the schools of the District of Columbia than any other school district in world.
With this abysmal record I certainly don't want Congress involved in my school district! Our Constitution leaves the education of our young in the hands of the States, and the States are much closer to the people and the children. Changing programs for changing needs is much easier when the change involves only two hundred students instead of two million. In New Haven County the history of the Revolutionary War especially features the local heroes like Nathan Hale, Roger Sherman, and even Benedict Arnold. When I lived in Montgomery County in Pennsylvania, the colonial history I studied especially featured William Penn, G. Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
Local schools should address the local needs of local children. In Florida it is important to learn about the mating habits of alligators, but in Montana it is far more important to learn about frostbite. In Washington, D.C. you don't have to worry too much about either frostbite or alligators.
Too many people look to Washington for money as if the Federal Government had an endless supply. The first darkhorse President (1845-1849) would not have allowed a half-dime for local education, but I am older and wiser. If you have read the comments at the end of my REVISED CONSTITUTION (qv), you are aware of the pitfalls and dangers of radical change. However, It is cheaper in the end to tax and spend in your own district than to send your money to Washington and then to beg for some of it back.
When Ronald Reagan was President and dismantling some of the remaining Great Society programs, THE NEW YORK TIMES ran a series which included a story of getting a Grant from Washington. First, the City of New York decided a project would be viable if Federal Funding could be obtained. (Some of these boondoggles were definitely less than needed.) Next, a Grant writer or Grant-writing firm would be hired. In the case I remember a fee of half a million dollars paid for the writing of the Grant (application). I expect that bureaucrats in Washington spent an equal amount of time and money to approve the Grant. And finally, the bureaucrats in New York received a check for $2 1/2 million. I don't think that it's financially prudent to pay a 40% bureaucracy tax on any project -- boondoggle or not.
The point of the previous paragraph is that taxpayers pay less in the end if we just tax and spend closer to home. Possibly Congress might authorize block grants to certain impoverished States so as to more evenly share the Wealth, but MORE MONEY DOESN'T MEAN BETTER EDUCATION!
The ultimate success of a student is largely dependent upon his (her) motivation. Usually, parents have the greatest opportunity to inspire their children, but teachers, clergy, neighbors. friends and relatives are also good sources of inspiration. Peer group pressure is a major source of attitude toward education. Students whose peer group values education will succeed in school while those whose friends disparage education will fare more poorly.
At the beginning of the twentieth century every reader marveled at the repeated successes of Horatio Alger. Today in the twenty-first century we have new heroes who have and continue to work hard. The work and struggle of these heroes should be praised as well as their successes. A few of today's heroes include Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Norman Schwartzkoff, Oprah Winfrey, Billy Graham, at al. Choose your own heroes.
Myra Collins was forced out of the public schools in Chicago because she inspired her students to rise up, to study, to succeed, to go to college, and to succeed some more. She taught her students to succeed -- not because she had money, but because she was inspiring. Some years ago Readers Digest carried a story about another inspiring teacher in California who inspired his inner-city students to excel in mathematics and science.
Without and apart from the Federal Government, private foundations could fund inquiries could into the fine points of exuding inspiration; but the best way for a parent to guarantee his child a good education is to read to the child as early as possible and to nurture the child's education as he grows.
For further details on these ideas, please, feel free to contact me at (e-mail) email@example.com
© L. Henry Platt, Jr.