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Friday, November 9, 2007

All not well in education, former U.S. secretary says

by Nacole Battee, Reporter
Tarrant County College Collegian

FORT WORTH, TEXAS The future will be a testament of today’s education system, a former U.S. secretary of education told more than 500 grade school and college students Oct. 30 on South Campus.

Dr. Rod Paige, the seventh education secretary, served during President George W. Bush’s first term.

“All is not well with the public education system,” he said. The political bickering and status quo politics have overshadowed the public’s real concerns, Paige said. Too many have been protecting the system, and now society needs to protect the children.

Paige said the public education system is not a structure but rather a concept of ideas that need to be narrowed. He said being crystal clear on standards, obtaining an accountability system, having visibility to see the system and giving students the choice of which schools to attend will help the education system.

Having the lowest high school graduation rates and knowing that 2/3 of young people do not achieve academic standards is a civil rights issue, Paige said. “Will society survive when the achievement gap has only closed 5 points in the last 15 years and at this rate will take over 55 years to close?” he asked.

The public education system will be successful when they become free to do what they want to do, Paige said. However, he said, testing is necessary to measure the success of the educational system.

“It is time now for talking about a lost generation,” he said. “If they are lost, it is we the adults who have lost them.”

Paige said the public education system should be here to serve the children. A question-and-answer session with the elementary students followed the speech. “There is nothing wrong with your DNA,” he told the group. Paige used Terrell Owens from the Cowboys to illustrate that even when trying their best, people sometimes drop the ball. Never giving up is the key to being successful, he said. To concerned parents, Paige said a change in the public education system should be able to produce quality students who will be on a global competitive level. He said in order to change the system, people should be more aware of who is on their school boards. The officials, he said, should have the students’ best interest at the forefront and be held accountable.

South Campus was one stop on Paige’s Texas Hope Tour (Help Our People Excel), sponsored by the Ministers for the Education of America. The tour spotlights issues discussed in his book, The War Against Hope: How Teachers’ Unions Hurt Children, Hinder Teachers, and Endanger Public Education.

In his book, Paige says the greatest obstacle to public school reform is “the enormous, self-aggrandizing power wielded by the teachers’ unions.” The book is an analysis of America ’s crisis in the classroom. It traces the history of the National Education Association from its beginnings as an advocate of educational excellence to what he says is “the early radicalization by left wing ideology.”

The South Campus African American Male Enrichment Network hosted the event.

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