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Dick Palmer: Wellstone's idea just plain bad

U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, DFL--Minn., is a likable guy all right, but his political direction simply doesn't wash with 21st century America. It seems to bode well in northeastern Minnesota, but throughout the country today, a decentralization of ...

U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, DFL--Minn., is a likable guy all right, but his political direction simply doesn't wash with 21st century America. It seems to bode well in northeastern Minnesota, but throughout the country today, a decentralization of the federal government domain is more than coffee shop conversation. State governments want the federal bucks, but they also want legislative direction to stay within their scope of responsibility. One issue of major concern is education.
This past week Wellstone introduced a bill in Congress that would require states to allow students to graduate even if they don't meet mandated state requirements. There are, at this writing, 26 states that require exit-exams to qualify for high school diplomas, including Minnesota with a basic-skills test.
Wellstone's federal legislation, if enacted, would allow students to graduate or advance to another grade if "they're attending school regularly and making good academic progress," said the Minneapolis StarTribune last Tuesday.
Wellstone's legislation will probably not advance far for a number of reasons. Yes, it will be said that the long arm of the federal government is already dominating every phase of our lives today, so what's the problem with more federal directives? And, as Wellstone points out, many areas of the country with bilingual challenges simply need a federal "helping hand" for the good of the children. Sounds good, but what is wrong with this picture?
Education is the most important tool in our society today. With the heightened interest in computer-related learning and a growing worldwide economy that is begging for youthful participation, we cannot lower our standards with a federal mandate. Individual achievement, guided skillfully in the classroom, should not be tinkered with.
State legislatures, directly subservient to local communities including school districts, have the ability to steer the educational system with tender-loving care and responsibility. Americans cannot stand by and hope for the best. We need educational standards, and mollycoddling students will only take away the incentives for achievement and responsibility.
Graduating kids who are not prepared isn't the answer and actually hurts the achievers who took their education seriously.
The present system is working. The teachers are doing their job, but alas, some parents simply don't get it. The federal government can't fix that either.
Dick Palmer is the former editor and publisher of the Budgeteer News.

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