2000/08/18/Wake up parents/woozle

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This article is the source of the following fabulous and absolutely correct quote:

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.

The article starts out as criticism of overmedication of children – a legitimate problem, but one that he blames on public schools, which seems less well-supported... and he then springboards off that claimed connection and turns it into an attack, rather than an attempt at constructive criticism.

There's an ongoing debate over who should be in control of the big decisions in public schooling – parents or "government bureaucrats". The ethically appealing answer is that of course parents should be in charge of what their children are taught, and this in turn is frequently used as condemnation of the public school system, where various levels of government have a great deal of control over curricula and rules, and an argument that it should be done away with and replaced by something that gives parents more choice – typically a system involving vouchers and a mix of charter and private schools.

The problem with that is that so many of the parents, especially in certain parts of the US, are themselves brainwashed in various ways, and will strenuously defend their right to have their kids similarly brainwashed, in the name of "family values" or whatever.

In comes Sowell, saying things like this:

There is not even a record kept as to how often the education bureaucrats have been wrong.

Seriously? I think he has to be making that up, knowing that his credible audience will just nod their heads. Educational science is, if nothing else, obsessed with recordkeeping – and which bureaucrats is he referring to, here? School-level administrators, school-system administrators, state Departments of Education, the federal Department of Education? Each reader is left to paint red Xs on their own favorite targets. This isn't criticism; it's hatemongering.

Yes, the public school system sucks in many ways – but what is his prescription for fixing it? An article that does nothing to suggest correction, and everything to anonymize and demonize school officials, can do nothing more than inspire antipathy towards it.

A professor of neurosciences at the University of Massachusetts has examined numerous diagnoses of children for numerous conditions. She says that three quarters of the case histories she has seen have at least one diagnosis that is "completely off the mark.

...and we're left to assume that "the education bureaucrats" are responsible for this, when in fact this anonymous professor said no such thing (according to Sowell's account). That's dishonest writing.

This is not just an isolated problem. It is part of a widespread erosion of parents' rights to raise their own children. Moreover, there is a whole ideology favoring government takeovers of parents' role. This ideology has been promoted for decades by people like Hillary Rodham Clinton and organizations like the so-called Children's Defense Fund.

We're getting close to the meat here -- he's arguing that parents should be able to override school curricula. Again, this is appealing on the face of it, but poses a problem when you're trying to de-program society.

And here it is –

Schools have already taken over the decision as to when and in what manner your child will be introduced to sex. Some schools are teaching various techniques of homosexual acts and some have gay activists visiting the schools, passing out cards giving the addresses of local homosexual hangouts.

He wants that to stop. He thinks that parents are correct when they reject fully-informed sex education and tolerant attitudes – and he's willing to slur support groups as "hangouts".

He's part of the problem – and part of the reason we can't let parents have the final say, because he incites the gullible to rally mindlessly in support of their own brainwashing.

The public school system is one of our vital institutions -- something that the more intellectual brand of conservative claims to defend against the ravages of liberalism – but that is clearly not the case here. At best, Sowell wants the public school system to be effectively neutralized and turned into a tool for religious propaganda; at worst, he'd be happy to see it dismantled. This is completely typical of the American Right, which tends to firmly and righteously advocate high-minded principles only so long as those principles support their true agenda of religious authoritarianism.

When religious propaganda is given government sanction and broadcast as "education", we all pay the price – including the bureaucrats he so disdains.

Notes

Adapted from a commend I posted here.