The Magazine

Cheaters in School

And they aren’t students.

May 13, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 33 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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The Department of Education has a budget of over $77 billion a year, and it also needs to be called out. This, of course, will not happen. What is happening is an effort by education theorists and teachers’ union bosses to transfer the blame from Hall and her co-conspirators onto .  .  . the tests.

The scandal, according to this line, proves that there is too much emphasis placed on standardized tests. One voice making this argument is that of William Ayers, writing in the Washington Post, where he is coyly described as:

a radical activist during the 1960s and ’70s, [who] had the national spotlight thrown on him during the 2008 presidential campaign when right-wing commentators tried, incorrectly, to say he had a close relationship with then candidate Barack Obama. In any case, Ayers is a well-known Chicago educator who worked with mayor Richard Daley on school reform and who taught and did research for years at the university. He has written numerous articles and books on elementary education.

In his short piece for the Post, Ayers (who in fact took part in the Weather Underground’s bombing campaign and was later a fugitive from justice) writes that Hall’s work “embodied the shared educational policies of the Bush and Obama administrations.” He then goes on to blame the No Child Left Behind initiative of the Bush administration (no mention of the big part Ted Kennedy played in that one) and Obama’s Race to the Top program for putting heavy emphasis on testing and “reducing education to a single narrow metric that claims to recognize an educated person through a test score.”

The stress on testing is an incentive to cheating, Ayers writes, and maybe so. But life is full of temptations that people are reasonably expected to resist. The Atlanta conspirators did have choices. Some of their colleagues chose not to cheat and not to tell investigators to “go to hell.” Some even chose to cooperate with the investigation.

Many, if not most, of the students who went to the corrupt schools—and their parents who sent them there—had no choice.

If testing has been tried and found wanting, one thinks, then how about trying something different?

Like school choice. If the Department of Education and the Gates Foundation and the rest of the education apparatus can’t sniff out a fraud and a con of this magnitude, let the parents and the students give it a try. They can’t do any worse.

Geoffrey Norman, a writer in Vermont, is a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

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