Many Alaska Democrats, running for state legislative seats, with sound, detailed platforms for improving our school system, were soundly trounced by GOP incumbents who rarely mention education to their constituents. One of many examples is that of the District 12 house race between longtime incumbent John Harris (certificates from Lincoln Welding School & Spartan School of Aeronautics) and Nancy Lethcoe (PhD University of Wisconsin). Lethcoe stressed public, higher and vocational education. Harris minimized their importance. Harris trounced Lethcoe, 72% to 27%.
In her unsuccessful presidential campaign this year, Governor Palin seldom mentioned education. And now that she is back from being absentee governor of Alaska, to being part-time governor of Alaska, one of her first acts was to skip the Alaska Dropout Prevention Summit in Anchorage, to attend the GOP Governors' annual meeting, in Miami, where she was deemed too dim a bulb to serve in any leadership capacity whatsoever. Celtic Diva has written a brilliantly scathing essay on Palin's educational priorities, promising to take the subject further soon.
Maybe it is best for the mother of two high school dropouts, the (possible) future mother-in-law to another, who let one of her younger children roam for nine weeks this late summer and early fall (sometimes wearing 5-inch heels - the kid, not the mom!), in a very formative year, with no trace of a qualified tutor or study regime, to be absent from serious discussion on how to address this problem.
The Anchorage Daily News, in today's edition, editorializes about Alaska's serious shortcomings in the realm of early childhood programs, and their possible relationship to the high dropout rates here:
Here's another gloomy statistic at the other end of the public education system: Only about two-thirds of Alaska high school students graduate in four years, compared with the U.S. average of three-fourths graduating.
And of Alaska students who do graduate, only a third start college. Nationwide, nearly half of high school graduates are college-bound. So what's the plan to improve the odds for Alaska kids?
There isn't one...
The ADN blithely goes on to put trust in the guy currently in charge of our schools:
...but state commissioner of education Larry LeDoux wants to change that. Last week, the state sponsored the first education summit in many years, engaging about 400 parents, students, educators, university officials and others in a discussion about what's needed.
I'm not so sure about Mr. LeDoux. His education administration credentials in Alaska are above average, to be sure, but he appears to have been put in place by Palin more because of his fundamentalist/evangelical credentials, than for his public education background. Here's the Statement of Faith from Azusa Pacific University, from which LeDeux claims to have graduated:
We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative word of God.
We believe that there is one God, creator of heaven and earth, eternally existent in three persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, and in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return to power and glory.
We believe in the fall and consequent total moral depravity of humanity, resulting in our exceeding sinfulness and lost estate, and necessitating our regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
We believe in the present and continuing ministry of sanctification by the Holy Spirit by whose infilling the believing Christian is cleansed and empowered for a life of holiness and service.
We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; those who are saved to the resurrection of life and those who are lost to the resurrection of damnation.
We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Some of these statement goals are, of course, laudable. Others are exclusionary, pertaining to Christianist supremacy.
I do wish Commissioner LeDoux all luck in getting our Alaska educational system out of the gutter into which so many idiotic, under-educated GOP slobs have thrown it. The further he stays away from Palin, her family and her ideals, the better.
I'm especially concerned about how LeDoux, who has spent a lot of higher education time in the realm of biological science education, deals with the inevitable push from Palin, as she attempts to cash in her political capital in Juneau, to "teach both sides" of the creationism versus evolution controversy in the classroom, as she promised during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign. As some realize, I've had three occasions over the past eleven years to discuss Palin's views on creationism with her. Those views appear to have evolved, so to say, but if she wants LeDoux to force the "teach both sides" meme into any legislation, I can guarantee her views will lose. And her efforts will detract from the real jobs that need to be done.
Alaskans need to work together and work intelligently to solve the structural problems that lead to our high dropout rates, high unmarried teen pregnancy rates, high domestic violence rates and low college attendance. It is often difficult for education panels like the ones conducted at last week's summit to delve very far in the important role families play in how poorly their kids do as students.
But in a state where over 138,000 people happily vote for a man convicted two weeks before an election of seven felonies, and where 148,000 people prefer a man under multiple Federal investigations to a man with a high level degree from Harvard, if we don't deal more effectively with endemic, willful ignorance, we will continue to have the most ill-educated, most violent and most superstitious population on the west coast of the United States.
image - Gov. Palin at the GOP Governor's meeting