In a statement reminiscent of Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle’s call to abolish the federal Department of Education, Colorado GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck falsely claimed at a Q&A session with College Republicans that American schools have declined since the 1950s because of increased federal involvement in education:
In the 1950s, we had the best schools in the world, and the United States government decided to, um, get more involved in federal education. Where are we now after all those years of federal involvement? Are we better, or are we worse? So what’s the federal government’s answer? Well since we’ve made education worse, we’re gonna even get more involved. And what’s gonna be the result?
First of all, Buck’s claim that American schools are worse now than they were in the 1950s is laughably wrong. In 1957, less than half of white Americans and fewer than one in five African-Americans graduated from high school. By 2002, however, almost nine in ten white children and eight in ten black children earned their diploma. Likewise, college graduation rates more than tripled during the same time period for both racial groups. Our country has a long way to go before we build the education system Americans deserve, but Buck is simply wrong to claim that American schools haven’t made massive strides since the 1950s.
More importantly, although Buck was probably referring to the federal Department of Education, which was created in 1980, when he attacked federal involvement in education. His blanket attack on federal education policy ignores the single most significant example of federal intervention in public schools:
In the 1950s, much of America was an apartheid state. For millions of children, the black educational experience was a tale of crumbling buildings housing overcrowded classes taught by underqualified teachers who were paid a substandard salary. Federal involvement broke this “airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society,” and Buck is wrong to ignore this history.
(HT: David Sirota)