Saturday, May 3, 2008

Understandably reluctant

Quote of the Day - "Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed." - Joseph Stalin

The following piece appeared in the Eagle Times.

Understandably reluctant
The impact all-day kindergarten will have on students as they move through elementary, middle and then high school is not a certain thing.

Logic would tell us that the more time young children spend in a learning environment the better they will be as they get older. But as everyone knows, other factors affecting a child's ability and desire to learn, such as the home environment, can erase the benefit of early learning.

In Newport, a group of residents are pushing hard for the school board to find $40,000 in next year's budget to pay a third of the $120,000 needed for full-day kindergarten. A Newport businessman has pledged $40,000 and community members are trying to raise another $40,000 in donations. If that effort proves successful, then the school board will have to decide whether it will come up with the final piece.

The money for all-day kindergarten was included in the proposed budget but when that budget failed at the polls, the board had to come up with $186,000 in reductions to meet the default budget figure. The administration recommended, and a split board agreed, to cut the full-day kindergarten money.

But board member Jim Lantz remained committed to seeing the program survive and that led to the present situation.

No doubt the school board would have no qualms with funding this program as well as many others if the money was there. But providing the best educational opportunities throughout the school district is not its only responsibility; it also has to consider the tax impact of every program it includes in the budget. If $40,000 goes toward kindergarten, where will it come from? This problem makes it entirely understandable that board members are reluctant to vote for the program.

In the past, Newport voters have rejected separate warrant articles for all-day kindergarten. That message has not been lost on some board members. The concern that coming up with $40,000 in the new budget will anger voters and come back to haunt the board at next year's budget vote is real. The $80,000 in non-tax dollars will not be there for 2009-10 and the board could get in trouble with voters if it just plugs the $120,000 into the next budget.

So the question is whether there exists a solid majority that favors all-day kindergarten or is it a vocal minority. Perhaps the best approach is for the board to find the $40,000 this year, assuming the public donations are received, then have a separate warrant article in 2009. In this way, the kindness of businessman Ray Malool, who donated $40,000, and the hard work of those raising money in the community does not go unrecognized or unrewarded. But once again, the board needs to hear from all taxpayers about this program and making it again a separate warrant article will give them that answer.

Go to the Eagle Times
to read the great comment by Suzanne.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Gregory J. Millman: Understanding home schooling

The following article appeared in the Union Leader.

Quote of the day . “You home-schoolers think you can change the world. But you can’t. Nobody can.” This quote is what a Professor said to one of the author's sons at a community college.

I had many thoughts when I read this quote. First how on earth can any human being say this to a child. Second how ignorant can this man be. I think readers would all agree that these individuals changed the world......Hitler, Genghis Khan, Martin Luther KIng, Einstein, Richard Feynman, Madame Curie, Charles Manson, Jesus, Muhammad, just to name a few. Third this man is disillusioned and should not be in a classroom. Here is a professor going through the motions, every teacher and professor should strive to make a difference in every student's life in hopes that that student will one day change the world, for the better of course.


Gregory J. Millman: Understanding home schooling

Saturday, Apr. 5, 2008

During a break in a high school debate tournament not long ago, my 17-year-old son struck up a conversation with a student on the rival team from a New Jersey public school. “Where’s your school?” asked the boy. When my son replied that he was home-schooled, the student probed.

“How do you socialize when you’re at home all the time?” he asked.

“Well, for one thing, I’m here, right?” my son laughed.

My children have gotten used to most of the standard questions from their conventionally schooled peers: Are you super-religious? Do you stay at home in your pajamas and watch TV all day? Is your mom a teacher?

Adults, on the other hand, can be surprising. Like the professor at the community college where one of our sons was taking a course, who went out of her way to pull him aside, sit him down and tell him, “You home-schoolers think you can change the world. But you can’t. Nobody can.”

It’s hard to generalize about home-schoolers, but if there’s one thing we know, it’s that we are changing the world, or at least the world of education choices. Others, though, see us as either misguided or threatening — and probably cheered last month’s California appeals court ruling that all children in the state must be taught by credentialed teachers. At least 166,000 California children are home-schooled. And most home-schooling parents don’t have teaching credentials, so the ruling is worrisome, even though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called it “outrageous.” The decision will probably be appealed, but the teachers’ unions are applauding in the meantime.

Nonetheless, home-schooling is booming. In 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that the home-schooled population nationwide was 1.1 million. And the National Home Education Research Institute estimates that it may be growing at double-digit rates.

There’s no denying that the modern home-schooling movement was born of the desire to shake off stultifying school bureaucracies and to sidestep the uncertain mission of public schools, which is set by adults with often conflicting priorities for children. A century of ideological struggles has defined the hodge-podge taught in schools, and they persist to this day. Will schools teach evolution or intelligent design? Offer safe-sex or abstinence-only instruction? Encourage art and dance or treat them as distractions from No Child Left Behind tests? Home-schoolers can make our own decisions based on what’s best for our children.

But “home-schooling” is a misnomer, really. Most of it doesn’t even take place at home, and the schooling has little in common with what goes on in school. The legal definition varies from state to state, as do registration and other requirements. In New Jersey, the law only requires parents to see that their children get an education “equivalent” to public instruction.

What home-schoolers most readily reflect are the virtues of the old American frontier settlement or the Amish barn-raising — we co-operate in self-reliance. My wife and I have been teaching our children ourselves for more than 15 years, and we’ve found that home-schooling opens doors that schools leave closed.

And contrary to most popular belief, home-schooling isn’t the brainchild of religious fanatics. It actually got started in the counterculture of the 1960s. In his landmark 1964 book, “How Children Fail,” teacher and education reformer John Holt accused schools themselves of causing students to fail; eventually, he came to advocate a sort of “underground railroad” out of compulsory schooling. It wasn’t until the end of the 1970s and into the 1980s that the movement spread through communities that believed public schools were threatening their moral values.

The boundaries between the counterculture and Christian home-school traditions blurred through the 1990s and 2000s, as home-schoolers from various backgrounds came to discover how much they actually have in common. Today, a well-estabmished and widesrread infrastructure of home-schooling groups, Web sites and networks has made home-schooling accessible to a broader population, people who wouldn’t consider themselves either particularly countercultural or particularly religious. People like my family.

My wife and I hadn’t originally planned on home-schooling, but with six children and one modest income, we couldn’t afford a house in one of the better school districts in the state. We were living in Plainfield, an elegant old gentral New Jersey city with typically poor urban public schools characterized by bureaucratic mismanagement, low teacher morale and student violence. In one notorious incident, third-graders in one school were strip-searched because someone suspected one of them of stealing $20. That wasn’t what we wanted for our children. We first tried a local Catholic school, but we thought that the teachers’ expectations for students were too low. Since we couldn’t afford classy private school tuitions, we turned to home-schooning.

Though we first tried to teach the children what the official curriculum standards said they ought to be learning in school, we soon realized that this only made sense in the context of a school. So we scrapped dry textbooks and workbooks and found more interesting ways for our children to learn.

We haunted used-book sales and assembled a library of classics for pennies on the dollar. We introduced statistics by driving to Florida for spring training (learning some geography on the way). When the dollar was strong and the airlines offered good deals in the off-season — when other children were in school — we took ours to Europe to see the great art and architecture or to learn about ancient Rome by walking through the Forum. Travel showed our children things they never could have learned in classrooms.

For several years, they participated in a fife and drum corps, playing colonial and traditional patriotic music, marching in parades, learning not only music and history but also teamwork, perseverance, discipline and a great deal about the communities through which they marched. This kind of experience is fairly typical of home-schooling.

Home-schoolers also work across a much wider socioeconomic spectrum than the conventionally schooled. We have worked on many projects, and in many organizations, that draw participating home-schoolers from all around our state, from far beyond school district borders. We joined a Shakespeare troupe founded by a single mother who was a college professor of literature. She taught the children to find the characters through the language, and they staged a complete Shakespeare play every year. Other members of that troupe founded a home-schooled robotics team, building robots to compete in regional, national and international events. We founded a debate and speech team that continues to compete at the middle school and high school levels.

The results? Studies have shown that home-schooled children outperform the conventionally schooled not only on standardized academic tests but also on tests of social skills. This, I believe, isn’t because home-schoolers do things better than schools do them, but because we do better things than schools do.

I’ve never heard a home-schooling parent refer to a child as “learning disabled,” for instance. There are many kinds of intelligence, but conventional schools usually only focus on one. Take late reading. A conventional school education depends on written textbooks and workbooks and homework, so a child who can’t read is unable to learn.But home-schoolers have developed systems and approaches that work with the kind of talent and intelligence a child has. One of our sons didn’t read until he was 8 years old. That was no disability, though. He learned from audio tapes and DVDs and from being read to and — very importantly — from going outside and looking around. He could spot a deer on a hillside or a bluebird in a tree long before the rest of us. When he finally decided to read, he jumped into “The Chronicles of Narnia” and finished the series within weeks. “I want to read the books before I see the movie,” he told us.

Home-schooled students’ high performance continues into college. Admissions officers at IUPUI, a joint-venture urban campus of Indiana University and Purdue, and at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University, have tracked the performance of admitted home-schoolers and found that they earn higher GPAs than the general student population. Associate Dean Joyce Reed of Brown University has called home-schoolers “the epitome of Brown students,” telling the university’s alumni magazine that “they are self-directed, they take risks, and they don’t back off.”

Admissions officers at other highly selective colleges, such as Swarthmore and Stanford, have made similar statements. Some colleges and universities are admittedly more open than others to making the effort to understand home-schooling, but we’ve gone through the admissions process with three daughters, and all were admitted to excellent colleges.

Conventional schools are like the nation’s Rust Belt companies, designed in the 19th century but struggling to meet the standards of international competition today. School boards and administrators should be concentrating on ways to make schools more like home-schooling — not on ways to force home-schooled children to go back to schools. People who are free to think for themselves usually get together and find solutions that are better than what bureaucrats can devise.

Those are the kinds of principles that gave us California’s Silicon Valley. Let’s hope that someday soon, home-schooling will be perfectly legal there once again.

Gregory J. Millman is co-author, with Martine Millman, of “Homeschooling: A Family’s Journey,” to be published in August.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Students rallied to the cause - Students used by Educators.

The difference between what I know now at 44 and what I knew when I was in high school is amazing. Even the difference between what I know now and what I knew at 29 is amazing. Most people know that most teenagers believe they know everything. It is not until people become adults they realize how little they actually knew when they were in high school. I am glad to say when I was in high school my teachers had enough class to not use us as political pawns. I can tell you knowing what I know now I would have been very angry if they had.

I am sure these students have not had a course in economics or finance and that they have no concept of what is in teachers' contracts or a teacher's pension. Further I am sure they have no concept as to how the current situation will effect their tax burden when they are adults. Shame on every adult who is using these children for their own gain.

After reading the below story I am reminded of the Komsomol.


Quote of the Day "Government schools will teach children that government is wonderful." Neal Boortz

The following piece appeared in the Union Leader.

Students rallied to the cause
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff

MANCHESTER – An impressive number of students packed Memorial High School's auditorium and cafeteria at Monday night's public hearing on the city budget.

Some were urged to attend by school officials.

Some rallied to the cause online at Facebook, a social networking site.

Others simply took the time to inform themselves and made the effort to turn out.

Still, the student turnout has some wondering if educators crossed a political line.

Grace Sullivan, executive director of Manchester Community Television, said she's seen plenty of budget hearings over the years.

"This was the first one that was driven by students," she said. "It was a student crusade."

Sullivan said her daughter, away at college, called her after finding an online discussion about school spending in Manchester at Facebook.

"The kids used Facebook to get it organized throughout vacation week," said Sullivan.

MaryEllen McGorry, principal of West High, makes no apologies for urging students to turn out Monday night.

"Two days before vacation and (Monday), I just got on the intercom and reminded them that there was a public hearing," said McGorry. "I encouraged them to go as (sports) teams in uniforms as a show of solidarity."

The school board has a policy that prohibits using schoolchildren as couriers to distribute printed material of a political nature.

City Athletics Director Dave Gosselin said last week that he encouraged students and parents to attend Monday's meeting and protect funding for sports.

Superintendent Henry Aliberti said removing the middle man and speaking directly to parents about the possibility of spending cuts doesn't violate district policy. But Aliberti said he'd have to double-check district policy to see if school officials are allowed to talk to students the same way.

Former Mayor Raymond Wieczorek, now an executive councilor, thinks that's "splitting hairs."

Wieczorek presided at City Hall in the 1990s when the school board policy was adopted. He said school-wide announcements and teacher-student budget talks are "absolutely" the same thing as printed political material.

Rachel Hedge, a Memorial junior who spoke at Monday's hearing, said she didn't need prodding to attend.

"For those of you who are criticizing the teachers saying that they scared' us into attending, you could not be further from the truth," Hedge wrote at "Not one of my teachers told me that I should attend or speak."

Tonya Ryan, of Manchester, wrote in with a different slant.

"My daughter was told by one of her teachers that her music class could be cut. I had to talk to her and inform her that it was not for certain just to calm her down," wrote Ryan. "How dare this school department manipulate my children and others for their political stances!"

Mayor Frank Guinta said students should be encouraged to attend civic meetings and decide issues for themselves.

"I think what occurred at this public hearing was designed for political posturing rather than civic engagement," said Guinta.

"It appeared very clear that they were encouraged to take a particular stance," he said, "and that's where the objection is."

McGorry said she was aware of school district policy when making her announcements.

"I certainly didn't consider it skirting the policy at all," she said. "I believe I was informing the students of their right to attend and be heard like any other citizen."

Wieczorek said the concept behind the school board's policy on political mailings is to avoid adults using kids as pawns in the budget process.

"Why wouldn't you expect the kids to come out lobbying for their schools if they're asked," he said.

Hedge sees it differently.

"We are high schoolers; almost adults," she wrote. "We understand what this budget could do to our future. ... We have the right given to us by the First Amendment to exercise free speech and assembly."

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sometimes the truth hurts.

I received the following from a tax fighting Mom and school board member in Illinois.


Sometimes the truth hurts.

A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very liberal Democrat. One of her liberal ideals was she was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs (in other words, the redistribution of wealth). She was deeply ashamed that her father was a staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.

One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs. The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.

Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends because she spent all her time studying.

Her father listened and then asked, 'How is your friend Susan doing?' She replied, 'Susan is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies, and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus and for her college is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties, and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over.'

Her wise father asked his daughter, 'Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct a 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0? That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.'

The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, 'That's a crazy idea! How would that be fair? I've worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time and a lot of hard work! Susan has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!'

The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, 'Welcome to the Republican party'

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Anti-tax crusaders take on city hall

The article below I believe is miss-titled because the group is not anti-tax but more so they are asking their taxes to be reasonable and fair. It is not unfair to ask our government to keep spending and taxes within the rate of inflation. In fact to spend greater than the rate of inflation is selfish on the part of school and government employees who benefit from taxpayers hard earned dollars. I would hope that both the Croydon school board and the Croydon selectmen elect to put this on the ballot for the next election. To not do so would be putting the interests of the tax-eaters ahead of the taxpayers especially during this recession and with gas prices as high as they are today.


Quote of the Day - "We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle." -- Winston Churchill

The story below appeared in the Union Leader.

Anti-tax crusaders take on city hall
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff

MANCHESTER – A group of anti-tax crusaders is launching a campaign to block Queen City officials from driving up the city's tax rate.

The conservative New Hampshire Advantage Coalition is leading the drive to put a cap on taxes and spending, tying both to the rate of inflation. Voters would have a chance to approve the proposal when they go to the polls in November.

"This really will help the taxpayers. It will force the government to look at how they're doing business every day," said Mike Biundo, the coalition's president.

The effort got under way in Manchester yesterday afternoon, when coalition leaders filed a petition with the City Clerk's Office. They estimate they'll need to collect about 4,000 signatures to get their question on the November ballot.

Similar petitions will be filed today in Concord, Merrimack and Rochester, Biundo said. All told, the group hopes to put the question to voters in 11 New Hampshire communities.

"The New Hampshire Advantage Coalition is looking to send a message to lawmakers on all levels that the only way to keep our low-tax advantage is to hold the line on spending," Biundo said.

Proponents of a spending cap tried and failed to get a referendum on the ballot in 2005 and 2007. A 2005 petition drive garnered 5,100 signatures, but state agencies struck the proposal off the ballot, saying it was legally flawed.

Mayor Frank Guinta, who was then an aldermen, rewrote the proposal as a non-binding referendum. The other aldermen refused to put the question on the ballot.

The New Hampshire Advantage Coalition's proposal would tie city spending to the consumer price index, as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor. The tax rate would be tied to the same index.

The proposal comes with an escape clause. In any given year, the city could override the cap by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

The proposal also gives the aldermen some flexibility in the event of a citywide property revaluation, or when the city issues bonds to pay for capital projects.

Aldermen Ed Osborne, a Democrat, said an escape clause would be crucial if the question were approved.

"As long as you can get out of it, I have no problem with it," he said.

The coalition's drive in Manchester will be led by businessman Karl Beisel, who pushed for spending caps in 2005 and 2007. Members of the committee that will assist him include Tammy Simmons, Barbara Hagan, Keith Murphy and Roger Wilkins.

Beisel predicted the committee would collect more than 5,000 signatures. He said he is confident the group will succeed in putting the question on the ballot, noting the language is similar to spending caps adopted in Dover.

Laconia and Franklin also have caps.

"As far as I know, every city that's put a measure like this to the voters has passed (it)," he said. "I certainly think Manchester would be no exception."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Home Schooling

I received the following piece from a homeschooling Mom. What I love about this piece is that this Dad understands that there should be educational freedom. Why is it that people who work in public schools are all for "diversity" but they are not for diversity in thought or diversity when it comes to school choice? School people do not want choice because they are more concerned about money than they are education. The more children they "teach" the more money the schools get.

The following piece appeared on

Home Schooling
Submitted by Bill Bunker on March 27, 2008 - 10:53.
Kim Murdoch made valid points in her MY TURN piece, "Homeschooler's Don't Need More Regulation".

Our children are not home schooled and in fact we are extremely pleased with the public education they receive in our local school. However, people home school for many reasons: religion, social teachings, health issues, hardship, convenience and quite honestly a feeling that their public school is just not a great environment for their children. In some cases that may be true.

Over the years I have known many families who home schooled and we have friends who presently do so. My experience is that all of those children have been successful and well adjusted with a thirst to learn and excel. I have also noted that it often strengthens the closeness of families. They also are providing a one on one classroom environment and can focus on many intricacies on subject matter as well as detail. The education system in this country validates the value of that kind of teaching with their concern about class size.

I knew one family that took a vacation and traveled to other countries, visited the Louvre and cathedrals as part of their curriculum. Their children had to write full reports of their trip and analyze the architecture, art and culture of their travels. That does not happen in public schooling.

One of the primary arguments against home schooling has always been ‘socialization’. It is uncertain if that is a valid argument or should even be a consideration. Children who are home schooled develop closer bonds with their families and relatives and do have neighborhood friends. Many go on to join their fellow age group in high school and I have known many who have gone on to college and graduated at the top of their class.

Of course if you subscribe to Hillary Clinton's vision that: "It takes a village" you would probably disagree. But it is the responsibility of families to raise a child; not society.

The attempt by present legislators in Concord to pass SB337, is not grounded solely in concern for the children, but is an attempt to get into citizens homes to dictate and regulate what is taught. It is the first step on a slippery slope the leads to an erosion of parental rights with agenda driven politics. The government has an obligation to ensure that every child receives a basic education but that comes in many forms.

There are many great home schooling programs and many parents who do a great job teaching their children. Stringent regulations already exist leading one to believe that this (SB337) is agenda driven legislation.

The educational system in many places is an organized industry . Schools are taking on more of a social role and usurping the rights of parents, teaching political correctness. One only needs to look at a few examples such are dispensing of birth control to underage girls, providing abortion counseling and abortion without parental notification, health classes that demonstrate how to put a condom on a banana and teaching gender curriculum.

If they pass SB337, I am sure that they will train a key eye on the ‘social’ teachings similar to the slanted agenda being slowly and surreptitiously woven into the curriculum of many public schools.

Continuation on this path does little to strengthen our ability to compete in the world. Perhaps more emphasis ought to be paid to science, mathematics and even expanded languages and less to programs and lessons that push the social engineering dreams of the present educational hierarchy.

There certainly needs to be oversight of children who are home schooled but more regulation is suspect especially by those politico's presently attempting to call the shots in Concord. They have moved swiftly to redefine the status quo with a definite left leaning agenda. Now they are focusing on home schooling which is ludicrous when they have addressed public education poorly and with an expected response of expanded taxes and unbridled spending as the solution.

Next I imagine they will be targeting charter schools. It seems as if school choice under the present regime in Concord means nothing as their true belief is that the State should dictate to the citizens. In reality, government is their to 'serve' the people, not provide political correctness and established political agenda.

Those who home school should be championed by society and maybe instead of knee jerk regulation, the NH Senate should look into the reasons why citizens home school. The answers they come up with might help them improve and streamline the curriculum and administration of the present public system.

To view my blogs by Bill Bunker click here.

Quote of the Day -A tax supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state. - Isabel Patterson, The God of the Machine

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Education Lessons We Left Behind

Quote of the Day - If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. -- "A Nation At Risk" (1983)

The following appeared in a number of sources including Real Clear Politics.

Education Lessons We Left Behind
By George Will
If an unfriendly power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. -- "A Nation At Risk" (1983)

WASHINGTON -- Let us limp down memory lane to mark this week's melancholy 25th anniversary of a national commission's report that galvanized Americans to vow to do better. Today the nation still ignores what had been learned years before 1983.

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once puckishly said that data indicated that the leading determinant of the quality of public schools, measured by standardized tests, was the schools' proximity to Canada. He meant that the geographic correlation was stronger than the correlation between high test scores and high per pupil expenditures.

Moynihan also knew that schools cannot compensate for the disintegration of families, and hence communities -- the primary transmitters of social capital. No reform can enable schools to cope with the 36.9 percent of all children and 69.9 percent of black children today born out of wedlock, which means, among many other things, a continually renewed cohort of unruly adolescent males.

Chester Finn, a former Moynihan aide, notes in his splendid new memoir ("Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik") that during the Depression-era job scarcity, high schools were used to keep students out of the job market, shunting many into nonacademic classes. By 1961, those classes had risen to 43 percent of all those taken by students. After 1962, when New York City signed the nation's first collective bargaining contract with teachers, teachers began changing from members of a respected profession into just another muscular faction fighting for more government money. Between 1975 and 1980 there were a thousand strikes involving a million teachers whose salaries rose as students' scores on standardized tests declined.

In 1964, SAT scores among college-bound students peaked. In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) codified confidence in the correlation between financial inputs and cognitive outputs in education. But in 1966, the Coleman report, the result of the largest social science project in history, reached a conclusion so "seismic" -- Moynihan's description -- that the government almost refused to publish it.

Released quietly on the Fourth of July weekend, the report concluded that the qualities of the families from which children come to school matter much more than money as predictors of schools' effectiveness. The crucial common denominator of problems of race and class -- fractured families -- would have to be faced.

But it wasn't. Instead, shopworn panaceas -- larger teacher salaries, smaller class sizes -- were pursued as colleges were reduced to offering remediation to freshmen.

In 1976, for the first time in its 119-year history, the National Education Association, the teachers union, endorsed a presidential candidate, Jimmy Carter, who repaid it by creating the Education Department, a monument to the premise that money and government programs matter most. At the NEA's behest, the nation has expanded the number of teachers much faster than the number of students has grown. Hiring more, rather than more competent, teachers meant more dues-paying union members. For decades, schools have been treated as laboratories for various equity experiments. Fads incubated in education schools gave us "open" classrooms, teachers as "facilitators of learning" rather than transmitters of knowledge, abandonment of a literary canon in the name of "multiculturalism," and so on, producing a majority of high school juniors who could not locate the Civil War in the proper half-century.

In 1994, Congress grandly decreed that by 2000 the high school graduation rate would be "at least" 90 percent and that American students would be "first in the world in mathematics and science achievement." Moynihan, likening such goals to Soviet grain quotas -- solemnly avowed, never fulfilled -- said: "That will not happen." It did not.

Moynihan was a neoconservative before neoconservatism became a doctrine of foreign policy hubris. Originally, it taught domestic policy humility. Moynihan, a social scientist, understood that social science tells us not what to do but what is not working, which today includes No Child Left Behind. Finn thinks NCLB got things backward: "The law should have set uniform standards and measures for the nation, then freed states, districts and schools to produce those results as they think best." Instead, it left standards up to the states, which have an incentive to dumb them down to make compliance easier.

A nation at risk? Now more than ever.