Bashing the Common Core

Is there a “conservative” attitude toward the new(ish) Common Core State Standards?  Though as we’ve noted, conservatives disagree, the session at the on-going Conservative Political Action Conference about the standards sounded like a bash-fest.

In the pages of The American Conservative, Gracy Olmstead offered a fly-on-the-wall report.  Conservative luminaries such as Phyllis Schlafly, Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation, Robert Enlow of the Friedman Foundation, and Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute took the CCSS to task for centralizing education.

Such centralization, Schlafly warned, does not occur in an ideological vacuum.  With more control from Washington comes more “liberal propaganda,” Schlafly insisted, as she has done before.  Enlow warned that centralization introduced yet another level of government control, blocking parents from their rightful control of their children’s education.  And Stergios insisted that the CCSS claim to be “state-led” was laughable.

Did this CPAC panel define the only “conservative” position on the Common Core?  As Stergios noted, many conservatives like the core.  He thought that opinion was “ludicrous.”  But correspondent Gracy Olmstead disagreed.  She noted that the standards still attracted fans and foes from all political sides.

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Pre-K? No Way

Among some conservative intellectuals and pundits, nothing says “government overreach” like public education spending.

This morning in the pages of National Review Online, Michelle Malkin spits some bile at President Obama’s plans to invest in universal early-childhood education.

As have other conservatives such as Lindsey Burke and Rachel Sheffield of the Heritage Foundation, Malkin denounces federally sponsored pre-kindergarten schooling in the harshest terms.

Malkin argues that the vaunted promises of universal pre-k don’t stand up to intelligent scrutiny.  As have other fed-skeptics, Malkin seems to mix up a few federal reports.  She refers second-hand to a journalist’s citation of a 2010 study of pre-k’s long-term effectiveness.  If she really wanted to bash federally sponsored universal pre-k, though, she would have been wiser to cite the Department of Health and Human Services 2012 follow-up to that study.  The 2010 study suggested that Head Start programs had a significant positive impact on children.  The 2012 follow-up, in contrast, implied that those positive effects dissipated by third grade (roughly age 7/8).  The numbers seem pretty clear: universal pre-k is not the simple social and educational panacea that some progressives had hoped for.

But more than just these policy arguments, Malkin thinks federally sponsored universal pre-k has a bigger moral problem.  As she puts it,

Let’s set all of this science aside for the moment. There’s a bigger elephant in the room. As I’ve pointed out for years, these cradle-to-grave government-education/day-care services encourage drive-through, drop-off parenting. Subsidizing this phenomenon cheats children, undermines family responsibilities, and breeds resentment among childless workers who are forced to pay for costly social services.

Perhaps this moral dilemma is the reason why Malkin is not overly concerned with the social-science exactitude of her sources.  Her argument goes like this: federally sponsored pre-k doesn’t work.  And even if it did, it would still lead our society in morally monstrous directions.

 

Thanksgiving Reflection: The Pilgrims Were Communists!

Here’s a Thanksgiving riddle: Why do conservative intellectuals and pundits insist that America was founded by communists?

Over the past several years, this idea has become a common theme among conservative commentators.

Rush Limbaugh, for example, has explained that the real story of the Pilgrims might surprise many people duped by mainstream histories.  After all, Limbaugh concluded, “They were collectivists!”

Capitalist from (almost) the Start

Capitalist from (almost) the Start

Similarly, the Heritage Foundation explains that the Pilgrims practiced what early governor William Bradford called “communism.”

Libertarian John Stossel reminded readers recently of the Pilgrims’ communist beginnings:

The Pilgrims started out with communal property rules. When they first settled at Plymouth, they were told: “Share everything, share the work, and we’ll share the harvest.”

The colony’s contract said their new settlement was to be a “common.” Everyone was to receive necessities out of the common stock. There was to be little individual property.

That wasn’t the only thing about the Plymouth Colony that sounds like it was from Karl Marx: Its labor was to be organized according to the different capabilities of the settlers. People would produce according to their abilities and consume according to their needs.

It would seem that conservatives would hate this conclusion.  After all, the notion of the greatness of the American founders has long been a centerpiece of conservative thought.

So why do conservatives insist that the original settlers were communist?

For most conservatives, the communist experiment of early settlers is used to prove the superiority of private property and market principles.  In most tellings, early communism proved disastrous.  As a corrective, leaders such as William Bradford in Massachusetts introduced radical market-oriented reforms.

The original founders may have been communists, the story goes, but they quickly learned the error of their ways.  Capitalism and private property triumphed.

Is it true?

Ironically, unlike the normal historical back-and-forth, in which conservative historians insist that America’s founding was glorious and other academic historians point out the many flaws in that tale, in this case mainstream historians have argued that the early settlers were not really as communist as conservatives say they were.

Speaking to the New York Times a few years back, for example, Richard Pickering of the living-history museum Plimouth Plantation explained that the early Pilgrims did originally hold property in common, but the end goal was private profit.

In Jamestown, the charge of collectivism is even more tenuous, according to some historians.  Karen Kupperman of New York University concluded, “To call it socialism is wildly inaccurate.”  Kupperman explained that the entire settlement was part of a joint-stock company, one from which each settler hoped to reap a private, and hopefully enormous, profit.  Kupperman asked, “Is Halliburton a socialist scheme?”

So here’s one for your Thanksgiving diary: When it comes to the historical memory of America’s early founders, we see a perplexing reversal.  Conservative pundits insist that America was founded by communists, and mainstream historians rebut that the free-market has always been America’s true guiding star.

Still left unclear: Did the Pilgrims play football?

College Is Dumb

What do college kids learn about these days?  It is a question about which conservatives have fretted for a long time.

Most recently, the Heritage Foundation warns that too many students, especially at America’s elite universities, are filling their heads with the mental junk food of Lady Gaga and zombie thrillers.  Worst of all, according to Mary Clare Reim on Heritage’s education blog, elite schools don’t seem to do much to encourage more substantial mental work.  For hefty tuition fees, Ivy League schools seem happy to have pampered youth meander lazily through fluff classes such as

“The Fame Monster: The Cultural Politics of Lady Gaga”; “Blame It on the Bossa Nova: The Historical Transnational Phenomenon”; “The Sociology of the Living Dead: Zombie Films”; “Fairytales: Russia and the World.”

Students are given the freedom, Reim laments, to fill their college years with nothing but such interesting but ultimately impractical mental games.

Reim cites a recent study from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).  The ACTA graded schools on how much core curriculum they require for their students.  By this measure, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford all get Ds.  Baylor and Colorado Christian University, on the other hand, move to the head of this class.

Reim’s worries place her in a storied tradition of nervousness among American conservative thinkers.  Since at least the 1920s, conservatives have worried that college students are being sold an intellectual bill of goods.  Classes are watered down, or worse, pernicious ideas are snuck in as the latest academic fad.

In the 1920s, for instance, William Jennings Bryan warned that elite schools such as Wellesley, Yale, and the University of Wisconsin filled the heads of students with pernicious nonsense.  In a dispute with Wisconsin’s president in 1921, Bryan snarkily suggested that Wisconsin should post the following warning sign:

Our class rooms furnish an arena in which a brutish doctrine tears to pieces the religious faith of young men and young women; parents of the children are cordially invited to witness the spectacle.

In 1935, one American Legion writer warned that “colleges all over the land” had been taken over by left-leaning numbskulls.

In 1950, one anonymous letter-writer wrote in to the Pasadena Independent to offer an explanation of why so many classes were so stupid.  If young people didn’t learn basic facts and skills, they would become easy prey for what this conservative writer called “propaganda leaders.”

In other words, keeping young people dumb was more than just laziness or faddishness.  Among conspiracy-minded activists, dumbing down colleges could work to prepare America for failure.

More recently, too, conservative intellectuals often assume that the content of higher education—especially at the most elite schools—ranges from sex-soaked to subversive.  Peter Collier, for example, in a recent article in the Weekly Standard, warned that left-wing ideas had taken over at Teachers College, Columbia University, beginning in the 1980s.  Under the name of “critical pedagogy,” Collier wrote, academics had “slowly infiltrated leftist ideas into every aspect of classroom teaching.”

Given the possible intellectual threat posed by socialism and blundering leftism, it seems conservative intellectuals might be happy to see courses that are merely stupid.

 

Classical Education and Conservatism

What is “classical” education?  Is it a “conservative” thing?

The Heritage Foundation recently published a video lecture by Leigh Bortins, founder and leader of Classical Conversations.

Readers of ILYBYGTH may remember a recent guest post from Patrick Halbrook about the thought of classical education inspiration Dorothy Sayers.

Bortins’ talk at Heritage did not focus too much on Sayers’ work, but rather on teaching homeschooling parents  a classical approach.  Those familiar with the themes of classical Christian education will notice that Bortins mostly assumes the age-graded breakdown of the Trivium, though she does talk us through it.

Her organization, Classical Conversations, claims over 62,000 students enrolled.  Bortins says her program has trained over 8,000 parents, as well as over 16,000 parents who have attended three-day practicums.

Bortins herself now hosts groups of college-age people (currently 19) in her home.  She teaches them in the classical model at her home.

Young people, Bortins insists, must be challenged in age-appropriate ways.  Monotony and repetition, she says, are the right way to teach young people.  Older students must move into questioning and using knowledge to improve themselves and their communities.

Too many contemporary education systems, Bortins argues, focus on basics such as literacy and numeracy.  Instead, education must keep its focus on big questions of virtue and personal formation.  Education, she says, has been turned too often into an industrial processing of young people.

The talk runs for about an hour and is worth your time if you’re interested in understanding the spectrum of conservative ideas about education.  Bortins takes her audience through some exercises relating to teaching with a classical model.  How do we define a common thing?  Bortins uses the example of the Washington Redskins.  What makes the Redskins different from other similar things?  What defines the team?

Parents can learn to engage their student-children in a set of guiding questions like this.  There is no mystery to it, Bortins believes.  Classical education, she says, will allow everyone to enter into all the great conversations from across human history.

Critics might complain that this educational model is literally medieval.  Students in this approach spend time defining, comparing, and disputing, just as young Europeans learned for centuries.

But knee-jerk characterizations of “conservative education” might be thrown off by Bortins’ emphasis on the educational value of the humanization and individualization of education.  Caricatures of conservative education often don’t have room to include Bortins’ emphasis on young people freed to sit under the stars and ponder their existence, young people learning to knit as a way to connect themselves to past generations of civilization.  Bortins’ take on good education revolts against an industrial model that treats young people like widgets.

Yet Bortins also insists on the value of free-market values in education.  She implies a Christian grounding to all true and proper education.  In the American context these days, that puts her in the conservative camp.

Of course, Bortins’ vision of classical education can’t be taken as the last word.  Other classical educators might differ in their definitions and approaches.  But Bortins’ talk gives us at least one prominent classical educator’s explanation of the promise of classical education.

 

A Conservative Runs on Charter Schools

How can a Republican get votes in the Big Apple?  Mayoral candidate Joe Lhota thinks promises of charter schools will help.

In a recent advertisement analyzed in the New York Times, Lhota critiques Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio for threatening to charge rent to charter schools.  Lhota, in contrast, promises to double the number of such schools.

Why?  According to the ad, charter schools promise the best educational hope for “inner city” kids.

Charter schools also represent the first best hope for many conservative educational activists.  The free-market conservatives at the Heritage Foundation, for example, insist that expanding the number of charter schools will expand educational opportunity for all.

Lhota does not seem to support charters in order to prove his conservative credentials, however.  Just the opposite.  Charter schools, Lhota claimed, were the real “progressive education approach.”  Lhota insisted that his support for charters proved that he was the real educational progressive in this race.  “If you oppose charter schools,” Lhota told the Association for a Better New York, “and the programs and the other choices that are available for minorities and inner city children, and children of immigrants, you cannot call yourself a progressive.”

That’s educational politics for you: the more conservative mayoral candidate endorsing a school program beloved by conservatives and calling it the progressive choice.

 

Are We Post-Racial Yet? Conservatives and Affirmative Action

It appears the US Supreme Court’s non-decision today about affirmative action won’t settle anything. In its 7-1 ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas, the Court sent the case back down to lower courts to decide.  This doesn’t rule out university use of affirmative action policies in admissions, but it does not exactly endorse it either.

Significantly, Court conservatives including Justices Scalia and Thomas voted with the majority today, but both indicated they would be willing (eager?) to rule such affirmative-action policies unconstitutional.

Legal and higher-ed policy wonks will have plenty to chew over in coming days.

For me, the recent ruling underscores the ways debates over affirmative action in university admissions policies have become a stand-in for conservative sentiment about race and racism in America.  Though it is too simple to say anything about conservatism as a whole, the last forty years have established a new kind of anti-racist conservatism.  These self-described anti-racists, however, have struggled to convince anyone besides themselves of their sincere dedication to fighting racism and traditional preferences that favor whites.

The recent SCOTUS history alone has given the debate over race and schooling a kick in the pants.  In the late 1970s, in the Bakke case, the Supreme Court ruled against the use of any racial quotas in college admissions.

More recently, in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), SCOTUS decided that race could be used in admissions decisions, as one category among others.  The key element in this decision was that race could be used to further the state’s interest in fostering a diverse learning environment.

One influential strain of opinion among conservatives can be summed up in a pithy statement by Chief Justice Roberts from 2007.  In a case from Seattle, Roberts insisted, “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race.”

Conservative thinking on this issue has, in some ways, remained remarkably constant for the past generation.  In the mid-1980s, for instance, writing for the Heritage Foundation, Philip Lawler articulated a conservative critique of affirmative action admissions policies that sounds fresh today.  Such policies, Lawler argued, effectively promote racism against African Americans and other historically underrepresented college populations.  Affirmative action degrades true achievement and breeds resentment towards all African Americans.  It also leads to a racist dismissal of the true achievements of some African Americans.

Former US Representative Allen West made similar arguments in his amicus brief filed in the Fisher case.  “Race-conscious policies do not advance – in fact, they harm – the most compelling of all governmental interests: protecting and defending our Nation’s security. This is true whether practiced by colleges and universities (which, together with the Nation’s military academies, produce the majority of the commissioned officers in our country’s military), or by the military itself in the selection and advancement of its officer and enlisted personnel,” West argued.  West, a prominent African American conservative, argued that affirmative action policies degraded all applicants, African Americans most of all.

The problem with these kinds of conservative arguments is that they are often dismissed as mere window dressing.  With important exceptions such as Representative West and Justice Clarence Thomas, most African Americans support affirmative action policies.  The NAACP, for instance, has consistently and energetically supported Texas’ race-conscious admissions policy.  The National Black Law Students Association, in its amicus brief in the Fisher case noted the “systematic racial hierarchy that produces and perpetuates racial disparities in educational opportunities and outcomes.”  Affirmative-action admissions policies, the NBLSA insisted, remained necessary to promote a truly non-racist society.  Conservative insistence that such affirmative action policies actually support anti-black racism tends to fall on deaf ears among the majority of African Americans and whites who consider themselves racial liberals.

Conservative activists and intellectuals—white and black—often express what seems like honest surprise when accused of anti-black racism.  Perhaps one episode that illustrates this kind of conservative anti-racism might be that of Alice Moore and the 1974 Kanawha County textbook protest.  In this battle from the Charleston region of West Virginia, conservative parents and activists protested against a new series of English Language Arts textbooks.  Among the many complaints were protests against the inclusion of authors such as Eldridge Cleaver and George Jackson.  Such militant African American voices, many Kanawha County residents insisted, did not belong in school textbooks.  Conservative leaders insisted that this was not because they were black, but because they were violent and criminal, and apparently proud of it.

Conservative leader Alice Moore came to the 1974 controversy freshly schooled in the ideology of anti-racist conservatism.  She had attended a conference in which conservative African American politician Stephen Jenkins blasted the anti-black implications of multicultural literature.  Such literature collections, Jenkins insisted, implied that the violent, angry, criminal voices of militants such as George Jackson and Eldridge Cleaver represented the thinking of African Americans.  Such implications, Jenkins explained, proved that the true racists were the multiculturalists.  By pushing a skewed vision of African American culture, such multicultural textbooks implied that African Americans as a whole were criminal and violent.

Moore embraced this sort of anti-racist conservative ideology.  When she (politely, as always) confronted African American leader Ron English at a heated board of education meeting, Moore seemed honestly flummoxed that the English did not agree with her.  Moore pointed out that voices such as Jackson and Cleaver did not fairly represent the truths of African American life.  But The Reverend English rebutted that such militant voices represented an important part of the American experience, stretching back to Tom Paine.

Moore’s befuddlement in 1974 matches that of anti-racist, anti-affirmative action conservatives today.  Many conservatives feel that their opposition to affirmative action makes them the true anti-racists.  Yet they consistently find themselves accused of racism.  The fight over Fisher never seemed to be changing this dynamic.  Now that the Court has punted, there is even less resolution on offer.  Conservative notions that true anti-racism requires the elimination of race-based considerations in college admissions will likely continue to fall on deaf ears among leading African American advocacy groups.

Conservatives Look South

If educational progressives these days tend to wave Finland’s flag, perhaps educational conservatives will start to wave Mexico’s.

Mexico’s new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, has made aggressive moves against his country’s powerful teachers’ unions.  Most dramatically, the government arrested teachers’ union leader Elba Esther Gordillo, “La Maestra.

Gordillo had long been famous for her lavish lifestyle, suspicious on her relatively frugal official salary.

La Maestra in 2005

La Maestra in 2005

By moving against the teachers’ union, President Pena Nieto made some powerful enemies.  The Mexican union had ultimate power over teachers’ jobs, often creating hereditary no-work positions.

But by attacking the union he has also gained some influential friends and admirers.  The Heritage Foundation, for instance, a leading conservative think-tank in the United States, lauded Pena Nieto’s move as the first step toward “meaningful education reforms.”  In the United States, after all, conservatives like those at the Heritage Foundation have long attacked the pernicious anti-market power of teachers’ unions.

This conservative admiration for Mexican education policy has not always been the case.  As historian Ruben Flores of the University of Kansas argues in an upcoming book, a century ago it was educational progressives who fell in love with the Mexican education system.  Back then, according to Flores, United States progressives admired the centralization and efficiency of the Mexican system.

Today, it is union-bashing conservatives who look south.

 

Who Owns the Children?

Do parents own their children?  Does the government?

A recent MSNBC promo has put this perennial conservative issue back in the headlines.  Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and others have denounced the sentiments of the ad.

Yesterday conservative pundit Glenn Beck accused liberal-leaning MSNBC of finally exposing their “radical goals” to steal children from parents.  The plan all along, Beck argues, has been for “progressives” to seize government control of the most intimate family decisions.

The specific MSNBC promo to which Beck objected contained this ideological smoking gun:

We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children. Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children. So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

This thirty-second promo by Melissa Harris-Perry contains the proof that liberals want to take children away from their parents and raise them in dysfunctional public schools.  His fears, Beck insisted, had been proven right by this “terrifying” video.  Though he recognized he might be called a “conspiracy theorist,” Beck insisted that this short video contained all the proof he needed of a vast left-wing plot to steal children into indoctrination centers.

Sarah Palin chimed in too, tweeting that MSNBC’s notion that children don’t belong to parents was “Unflippingbelievable.”

Rush Limbaugh predicted that soon children could be forced to mow everyone’s lawns, not just their own.  This notion, Limbaugh concluded, was as “old as communist genocide.”

The idea that “progressives” have set their sights on sneakily seizing control of America’s children has long ideological roots.

Back in the 1970s, for example, the influential conservative activists Mel and Norma Gabler asked fundamental questions about the nature of the textbooks under consideration in their home state of Texas:

To WHOM does the child belong?  IF students now belong to the State, these books are appropriate.  IF students still belong to parents, these books have absolutely no place in Texas schools.  The author clearly states that these books are designed to change the behavior, values, and concepts of the child, based on the premise that the teacher is NOT to instruct, but to moderate, and to ‘heal.’ [Gablers, What Are They Teaching Our Children, pg. 119]

Similarly, Connie Marshner, affiliated at the time with the Heritage Foundation, argued in 1978, “A parent’s right to decide the direction of his child’s life is a sovereign right, as long as the child is subject to his parent.  Educators have no business creating dissatisfaction with and rebellion against parental wishes” (Connie Marshner, Blackboard Tyranny, pg. 38).

But such notions go back much further in the conservative consciousness.  One leading conservative activist in 1951 Pasadena warned a state senate investigating committee that the root cause of public school problems was “a definite elimination of parental authority, undermining of parental influence.”

And back in the 1920s, the US Supreme Court ruled that parents had a right to educate their children in private schools if they chose.  The reason, the court ruled in Pierce vs. Society of Sisters (1925), is that “The child is not the mere creature of the state.”

Beck’s, Palin’s, and Limbaugh’s outrage are nothing new.  Conservative activists have long been convinced of a far-reaching plot to substitute state control of children for that of parents.

 

Do Conservatives Want the Government to Tell Americans What to Do?

Preschool or Parents?

That’s the question education pundits from the Heritage Foundation have been asking lately.  To a non-conservative outsider like me, this question raises key questions about the goals of conservative education policy.  It seems as if Heritage Foundation writers want both a less intrusive government and a more intrusive government.

Don’t get me wrong.  I understand that there are different sorts of conservatives, all of whom may have very different visions of the good society, good education, and the proper role of government.  I’ve read the work of historians such as George Nash who have chronicled the post-World War II tensions between libertarians and social conservatives.  But in this case, it seems as if one conservative organization—a small-government conservative organization—is calling for a big-government solution to education dilemmas.

Here is the recent confounding case: In light of President Obama’s recent call for universal, government-funded preschool, Heritage writers have renewed their push for a different vision.

Lindsey Burke and Rachel Sheffield of the Heritage Foundation insist that government-funded schooling is not the effective or ethical way to improve school achievement.  The obvious answer, Burke and Sheffield write, is to improve families.

They cite research to prove that programs such as Head Start have not been effective.[1]

They also note studies that tie school achievement to stable family structures.  As Burke and Sheffield argue,

 “A stable family, with married parents, provides the best foundation for a child’s academic success. Children raised in intact families are more likely to graduate from high school and more likely to attend and complete college than their peers raised in single-parent or blended families[30] They also score higher on reading and math, and exhibit fewer behavioral problems in school[31] A stable family also prevents a variety of other risk factors that would derail a child’s future success[32]

“However, over 40 percent of children are born outside marriage in America today. These figures are much higher among minorities: 72 percent among African Americans and 53 percent among Hispanics, while 29 percent among whites. Unwed childbearing is the greatest driver of child poverty today. Children in single-parent families are nearly six times as likely to be poor compared to their peers born in married-parent homes[33] Additionally, children in non-intact families have poorer academic performance and are at greater risk for dropping out of school, becoming antisocial and delinquent, and parenting a child outside marriage. These outcomes persist even after controlling for income.34” [N.b., there was no link in original for note 34. It referred readers to the same source as note 33.]

In this excerpt, Burke and Sheffield refer to three earlier Heritage-Foundation research articles: see here, here, and here.  I followed up on those sources, and found that the research came largely from peer-reviewed academic journals such as Journal of Marriage & Family and Social Forces.  (Without a library membership, it can be difficult to access these sources.  However, most public libraries have an EBSCO-or-similar database subscription that will allow readers access to these small-circulation academic journals.)

One conclusion that could be drawn from this is that the government needs to encourage families to stay together.  The public-policy goal would be obvious: if intact families improve school performance, then the government has a compelling interest in promoting stable families.

Burke and Sheffield avoid that conclusion.  Instead, they suggest that government should eliminate or reform Head Start, stop mandating government preschool, and reform existing preschool programs before expanding into new ones.

But other Heritage voices have taken a different approach.  Robert Rector, in 2012 a Senior Research Fellow in the Domestic Policy Studies Department at The Heritage Foundation, argued—in a study cited by Burke and Sheffield—that government should indeed engage in what Rector called a

broad campaign of public education in low-income areas. This campaign should be similar in scope to current efforts to convince youth of the importance of staying in school or to inform the public about the health risks of smoking. While the costs of such an effort would be small, its impact could be considerable.”

Rector also suggests concrete policy suggestions to strengthen families, such as increasing the tax benefits to married couples with children.

I honestly don’t mean to be snarky when I ask this next question; I am truly confused.  Do small-government conservatives such as Heritage’s Robert Rector really want the government to tell people how to regulate their intimate lives?

Heritage’s Derrick Morgan offered what seems to me an awkward patch of these conflicting sentiments a few months ago.  Small government was the answer, Morgan wrote.  But smaller government must also promote “traditional values” as part of its goal to shrink its own purview.

When it comes to education policy, this just doesn’t add up.  Small-government goals of privatized education, smaller government-funded programs, and fewer government education standards seem consistent.  Even if I don’t agree with them, I can see their logic.  But I don’t understand how Heritage’s conservative thinkers connect these goals with a simultaneous government intrusion into the most private, intimate decisions Americans make.

Hostile critics, I think, would assume that Heritage wants to impose government mandates on poor and powerless Americans, while allowing richer and more powerful citizens to enjoy freedom from government interference.  That seems a little simplistic, especially for the sophisticated thinkers preferred by the Heritage Foundation.

But is it true?  Does the Heritage Foundation suffer from—at best—confused ideology about education?  Or, at worst, is Heritage cynically promoting intrusive government for the poor, and small government for the rich?

 

 


[1] Here I think Burke and Sheffield need to be more careful.  The reference they cite was actually to a 2010 study, one that reports significant positive effects of 3- and 4-year-old Head Start problems.  But from the text of their article, I gather the authors meant to reference a more recent 2012 follow-up, in which few long-term differences were found between children who attended Head Start and those who did not.