Crises, Tidings & Revelations: A Do-It-Yourself Fed-Ed Toolkit

Educational change agents, take heart. President Clinton and the education establishment will help you stand firm against troublemakers in your community who question or, more regressively, oppose their recently passed education bill, Goals 2000: Educate America Act. To put an end to such nay-saying, your Department of Education has designed for you a “Community Action Toolkit.”

This 235-page “Do-It-Yourself Kit” for “Community Organizing” comes complete with tactics for “troubleshooting” against “confused” and even “resistant people.” It should foster receptivity among your fellow citizens to the new federal educational standards, which are being set by the Clinton-appointed National Education Standards and Improvement Council (NESIC).

NESIC’s composition virtually assures a rich mix of expertise. Its members include, not only professional educators and members of teachers’ unions, but representatives of organized labor, as well as experts on gender equity and multiculturalism. The board is also comprised of representatives of the public, including state or local policymakers, advocacy groups, and, of course, parents.

The reach of these federally developed educational goals is more comprehensive than any previously conceived: not only will they define what all kindergarten to 12th-year students must know and be able to do, and how they should be tested, they will also “cover . . . prenatal care to lifelong learning.” The scope of this plan promises to surpass even that of one of its antecedents, the 1981 K-12 Course Goals Publications, which was funded by the U.S. Office of Education. In 14 volumes it defined 15,000 “learning goals,” relating not merely to appropriate subject areas but also to desired “value-attitude” and “knowledge process.”

To help your community implement this magisterial plan, your Goals 2000 Toolkit presciently identifies the “opponents” you are likely to encounter. These may include those who may not yet recognize that there is no “going back to basics” in education, or parents who believe that calculators in the classroom keep students from learning how to do basic math. It may also include those who believe that the national goal of “critical thinking” suggests that “children should be taught to be critical of their parents.”

Other resistance may stem from narrow thinking on the part of those who say that “a lot more discipline is what schools need to improve.” Other resisters may wonder if “the standards being considered for our schools reflect the values I believe in and practice at home.” More generally, as your Toolkit advises, you can expect opposition from “those who might loose [sic] if your effort succeeds.” In any case, it stoically observes, “you are likely to face opposition any time you try to introduce change.”

Your Toolkit anticipates every frailty of those about you. Do they suffer from inertia regarding the education of their young? Are they dumbstruck by the sheer breadth of the Goals’ new “opportunity to learn” standards, which establish federal guidelines for school spending, material requirements, class size, teacher certification, and instructional methods, in addition to curriculum? No matter. Your Toolkit is based on the assumption that in your community “an organized discussion about educational reform will not happen spontaneously.”

To inspire your reticent fellow citizens to adopt the new federal goals, it prescribes “a seven-stage journey.” Its successful completion depends, first, upon the development within your community of “free-floating concern . . . a sense of urgency” concerning the need for educational change. To lubricate this “process,” it also offers guidance on how to “choose a facilitator” and identify other “change agents, who through their actions, behaviors, attitudes or opinions can achieve your objectives.” “Be patient,” your Toolkit cautions, for in the “final stages . . . people will undergo Full Acceptance,” that is, “a basic change in attitudes.”

It may be inconvenient, however, for citizens in your school district to formulate their own objectives. Thus your Toolkit includes a trove of preassembled materials with which to saturate your community, so as to “help paint the common vision” and create a climate of “consensus”: sample letters, suggested responses to common concerns, advice on pre-meeting planning, intricately detailed agendas for scripted small group meetings, a plan for generating favorable media coverage, and sample surveys.

Surveys, for instance, will make “people . . . feel part of the decision- making process.” One such model survey asks respondents to “strongly or somewhat agree or disagree” on the following components (evidently deemed essential by Toolkit authors) of the best education possible: math and science refresher courses should be available for all adults, parenting education programs should be available for all parents, and school nutrition services should include breakfast.

Such community handouts unfold in comprehensive, seemingly omniscient detail. You men, while advocating our National Goals on television, do not wear a black suit, for you risk conveying “the image of a wealthy corporate executive.” But do wear “buttons with a community goals and standards campaign logo.” To get the attention of the media, do present an award and engage in a political action. Do avoid loaded words and phrases . . . like “outcomes,” “outcome-based education,” “self-esteem,” and “attitudes.” However, “try not to spend too much time responding to . . . the ten percent who may actively oppose your change efforts,” but do “confirm that restrooms . . . are available.”

Of course, you are not obliged to adopt this ingenious blueprint for organizing your 16,000 school districts. Compliance with the new federal goals themselves is voluntary. But it should be evident to all but the foolhardy that it is in the best interest of your district to volunteer. The new federal moneys will be withheld from those states and districts which are so unwise as to reject, in the words of your Toolkit, “true change.”

Your Kit for Tools will guide your community in realizing the visionary Clinton design for pre-birth to death educational renewal. It may be obtained from your Government Printing Office at 202-512-1800. Its stock number for ordering is: 065-000-00680-4. A fee of $37.00 is required to cover the cost of printing and postage. (This does not include the cost of its preparation by eminent education experts. Secretary of Education Richard Riley will no doubt eagerly provide you with information regarding both total cost and authorship.)


  • Candace de Russy

    Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized scholar on education and cultural issues and an Adjunct Fellow at Hudson Institute.

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