April 21, 2006



Constricting high school education
by Jim Hightower

As if George W hadn't mucked up public education enough by requiring all schools to conform to his regimented, teach-to-the-test scheme along comes brother Jeb Bush with another wacky scheme for social engineering in our schools.

Jeb, who likes to call himself the "Education Governor," wants Florida to require every incoming high schooler to make a career choice and declare a major — as they enter the ninth grade! Every student would then have to have their four-year high school education narrowed, concentrating on subjects within their declared major — whether that's music or auto repair.

The ninth grade! You're only 14 years old! How do you know at this tender (and confusing) age what career is best for you? When I was 14, I decided that I should become a civil engineer and build bridges. Was I good at math or adept at solving structural problems? Not at all — I was simply infatuated with the notion of bridge building, having seen a war movie called The Bridge Over The River Kwai.

We don't let kids vote at 14. We don't let them get all roiled up in a hormonal rush and go marry someone at 14. We don't let them join the army at 14. Then why force them at 14 to choose a career path, when they've had such limited exposure to the possibilities?

Jeb says it's all about getting scattered high schoolers to focus their minds so they can prepare themselves for college and the working world. Well, excuse me, but what about the broader role of education — letting kids sample a wide range of learning, offering a well-rounded view of the world, and developing each student's ability for critical thinking? High school represents the coming of age, and it should be a time for opening minds and exploring opportunities. There'll be plenty of time later for narrowing one's path in life.

Jeb and George are twisting our education system to implement the corporate dream: a society of highly skilled automatons who do not think to question authority.

Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com


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