Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Goldwater Institute: New education report brings refreshing honesty

"Baghdad Bobbing" No More

By Matthew Ladner, Ph.D

Arizona politics can be disorienting. People can spend a lot of effort on problems that don’t actually exist -- and then bury their heads in the sand on serious issues.

A perfect example of the latter phenomenon is in the area of K-12 education. Denials and justifications for poor performance abound: We’re 49th in spending (except we really aren’t). We’re doomed by our demographics (even though other states have figured it out). Or my personal favorite: We’re really already well above the national average!

Collectively, these assertions bring to mind Mohammed Al Sahaf, Saddam Hussein’s Information Minister, who made outrageous assertions during the Second Gulf War. Denying the defeat of the Iraqi army, Al Sahaf made claims such as: “I can say that they (American soldiers) have started to commit suicide under the walls of Baghdad.”

Refreshingly, the Arizona Community Foundation has departed from these “Baghdad Bob” narratives in their recent report, Educating Arizona: Assessing Our Education System (Birth – Grade 12). ACF has produced a serious report that gets the most important thing right: Arizona faces an education crisis.

The report often lays out shortcomings better than solutions. Sometimes they recommend solutions that I find off the mark. Recognizing problems, however, represents the first step in finding solutions. The Arizona Community Foundation has, therefore, made an important contribution to the education debate.

Dr. Matthew Ladner is the vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute.

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