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…
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.
A video clip we were just forwarded, from an appearance last night by GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck before a group of CU College Republicans. Transcript follows–we’re running through various things like historical comparisons, etc. to figure out how he doesn’t mean…what he seems to mean:
Buck: He still has his recorder on right there… [points, laughter]
Question: [brief lead-in] What plans do you have to make public education better in America?
Buck: “Let’s talk about that [education] folks. In the 1950s, we had the best schools in the world. And the United States government decided to get more involved in federal education. [Pols emphasis] 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? It’s kinda like health care. We’ve screwed up health care–Medicare–we’ve screwed up all kinds of other things, so what are we gonna do? We’re gonna get even more involved in health care. What are we going to do? We’re gonna get more involved in education.
Is this the “Rand Paul moment” for Ken Buck, folks? Most of the increases in federal funding for education, the federally-guaranteed student loans that Buck so famously wants to do away with, and other federal “involvement,” happened in the 1960s, not the 1950s: the federal Department of Education didn’t itself exist until 1980. In addition, before the 1965 federal student loan program we know today, which uses private lenders and federal loan guarantees, student loans were made directly by the U.S. Treasury. Is that his conservative vision?
We suppose it’s possible that Buck was referring to such programs as the GI Bill, or the National Defense Education Act (1958), legislation that played a role in American universities becoming worldwide destinations for scientific and technical research–including the same University of Colorado where Buck was speaking–but we kind of hope not. In any event, the actual boogeyman federal education “involvement” Buck rails against didn’t really exist until Lyndon Johnson.
Of course, there was that little matter of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954, later enforced by federal troops on a rather unwilling local government in Little Rock. Which would very certainly come under the heading of “federal involvement” in education, wouldn’t it? As a matter of fact, wasn’t that a big argument about “local control,” if you set aside the messy racist stuff?
Uh, oops–enjoy “Buckpedaling” this one. We’re guessing he’ll claim misspeech, wrong decade or something. Unfortunately, that won’t help him explain to senior citizens how their Medicare, uh, “screwed up” health care. Last time we checked, most of them don’t actually agree, no matter how well that line might play with College Republican frat boys!
Camcorders really suck, don’t they?