Shanker’s Non-Starter

Why is it that the more we spend on education the worse it gets? A new report from the U.S. General Accounting Office showed that spending for education over the past 30 years rose more than 100 percent in real dollars. But during that same period, SAT scores steadily dropped. Many schools became violent and drug-ridden. If money isn't the answer to our educational woes--what is? Albert Shanker, head of the American Federation of Teachers, has offered one answer: a program of common-sense reforms called an "Educational Contract with America." But what Shanker ignores is that contemporary educational theory itself has erected barriers to reform. For example, Shanker says schools should refuse "to tolerate disruptive behavior." Common sense indeed. The problem is, educational theory itself is committed to moral relativism: Classes on moral education warn teachers not to "impose" any standards on students. How is a teacher then supposed to turn around and impose behavioral standards in the classroom? And if kids are supposed to be allowed to determine their own values, how can we punish them for choosing to be disruptive? Mr. Shanker also calls for high academic standards. Again, one can hardly disagree--but today's academic establishment embraces the postmodernist assumption that there are no absolute truths. According to postmodernism, truth is only the creation of a particular culture--and the cultural elite of each society consolidates its power by imposing its views on everyone else. When people who don't believe in truth try to set academic standards, all they can do is set up behavioral and attitudinal objectives. An example of this is the outcome-based education programs being set up in many schools. These programs refuse to give children grades. Instead, students are forced to repeat the same material over and over again until they exhibit the required behaviors. The application of OBE on a national scale can be seen in Goals 2000, which sets up politically-correct, multi-cultural goals in place of factual knowledge. The real problem in education today is the loss of belief in objective truth. Educators, having rejected God, no longer have any basis for affirming objective values and objective knowledge. As a result, there's nothing left to teach. It doesn't matter how many computers a school system installs, what the teacher-student ratio is, or how much money is spent. Educational reform will be impossible without a change in worldview. Christianity, on the other hand, does have a basis for both values and truth. The Bible reveals the righteousness which is a part of God's very nature. This absolute, unchanging standard is the foundation for all human values. Since God has created everything that exists, he is also the source of all knowledge and truth. I hope you'll continue reading. In the next few pages I'll be talking about an exciting concept called "character education" which brings objective values back into the classroom--the kind of values that can bring about a renaissance of our education system.


Chuck Colson


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