Got a chance to talk with U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige today at a luncheon in South Florida. As a conservative, I certainly would support doing away with the Department of Education altogether, but as long as it must exist, I'm glad that someone like Paige is running it.
I told him that as long as issues of right and wrong and good and bad (i.e. morality) are considered "religion" and relegated to some dusty corner outside the schools, there will never be any substantial improvement. He agreed and said something I was pleasantly suprised to hear from a cabinet member: people can and should work to influence their local governments to change the situation. It's not really a federal issue, it's a local issue. The federal government really shouldn't have that much say in it one way or the other.
In all honesty, I tend to believe our public schools are a lost cause at this point. They are forced to preach the religion of secularism to the children in their care. All schools teach a morality; the only question is which one will be taught--and the one being taught is profoundly relativistic. We've all seen the results.
I'm not naive; a government school is a government school, and will always be an inferior option because of it. But if you put a decent local government in place, that doesn't always have to be the worst possible thing.
I particularly liked one observation Paige made in his speech: "Name for me one enterprise outside of education where imposing standards would be considered an innovation."
Oh yeah, he also called the National Education Association a "terrorist organization" last month, so you've gotta kind of admire that. With those kinds of statements, the Left might finally let the Department of Education just disappear after all.