Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I'm a Conservative

After reading George Will’s column over at The Education Wonks, I now realize that he is not a conservative. I am. Mr. Will trots out that old “liberal bias” bogeyman, complaining that too many colleges have liberal professors.

He then gives a few examples and concludes all education schools are biased. His solution? Eliminate education schools. That’s a radical notion. Conservatives, like me, think we should simply improve them, making them more practical.

I’ve had several right-wing dentists, but I’ve yet to come to the conclusion that we need to eliminate dental schools. As long as they can fix my teeth, I don’t much care who they vote for.

That brings up a nasty objection. What about all the certified teachers who simply aren’t that good? Why don’t we eliminate certification since, apparently, it does no good.

Of course there are plenty of "trained" teachers who can't teach. There are also plenty of "trained" people in every profession, without exception, who can't do their jobs.However, I have been teaching in NYC for 20 years, and I've seen firsthand what happens when you lower standards.

While certification does not ensure a good teacher, the inability to pass a basic skills test fairly guarantees a bad one.In the 70s, NYC went from the highest to the lowest standard in the state. It employed thousands of uncertified, under-certified, and unqualified teachers, has been doing so for over thirty years, and over that period it's gone from a world model to one of the worst anywhere. Personally, I do not attribute that to coincidence.

Will thinks anyone can teach. He’s wrong right there. I’d like to see him in front of 34 urban high school kids for 45 minutes. Of course, the incredible cut in pay notwithstanding, he wouldn’t do it on a bet. And he couldn't do it if he tried.

Unlike Will, I believe in old-fashioned family values. I believe we owe every child a good education. I think it’s more important than tax cuts. It’s more important than “reforming” social security. It’s even more important than oil.

Can you imagine what we could’ve done if we’d devoted the trillions of dollars we've spent on the Iraqi war to educating our people? In any case,unlike radical Will, I'd certainly balk at an unprecedented "pre-emptive" war, particularly one with such predicatable consequences. Well-known conservative George Herbert Walker Bush certainly saw this coming.

The only thing more basic and fundamental than education, of course, is health care. As a family-values oriented conservative, I think we need to offer decent health care to all our citizens. It’s the least we can do.

I don’t believe that we need a voucher system. I believe, rather than draining money from the education system that’s made America one of the most successful nations in the history of the planet, we ought to support it and fix it when necessary.

We conservatives do not believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

We like to look at precedents, and at what works. Better education is right in front of our faces. Not to beat a dead horse, but small classes and good teachers, precisely what CFE demands, make good schools. The New York State Supreme Court thinks so too. Radicals like Governor Pataki differ, preferring to save money for tax cuts. That's fiscally irresponsible.

Suburban schools not 5 minutes from NYC are excellent. Hundreds of teachers apply for each opening. They pay teachers well and select the best for their kids. They invest money in school facilities, and place their kids in small groups in clean, modern classrooms. I live there. My kid goes there. Let me tell you—it works.

Radicals, like Bloomberg and Klein, resist these tried-and-true notions, preferring to experiment with untested pie-in-the-sky nonsense.

They cram buildings to triple capacity, break their much-heralded promises about school construction, but lobby endlessly to build sports stadiums for billionaires. They divide overcrowded schools into pieces, and farcically refer to them as “small.” They advertise worldwide for anyone who can meet the lowest standards in the state. They scream about merit pay. They complain about the quality of the teachers their selective process produces, and then blame the UFT, who didn’t hire the teachers in the first place.

Then other radicals scream that the certification process is too tough. Who needs a license anyway? Why the hell should I have to go to college? I want to teach right now!

Conservatives, on the other hand, believe in quality. We don’t think we need to eliminate standards for teachers. We think we need to raise them considerably.

And naturally, we conservatives also believe in the law of supply and demand. We believe if you pay them, they will come. That’s why, when my fellow conservative, Rudy Giuliani, fought his multitudinous lawsuits, he did not hire $35-an-hour lawyers.

We believe in getting what we pay for. And NYC, which has paid the lowest salary in the area, and offered the very worst facilities and working conditions for thirty years, certainly gets what it pays for.

We conservatives want to fix that, and the sooner the better.
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