effective schooling. Most schools with proven academicnsuccess share several ingredients that most unsuccessfulnschools lack. Those ingredients are qualitative, not quantitative:nmediocre schools often spend lavishly, outstandingnones often have modest budgets. The desirable qualities arenthe kind that centralized government agencies cannotnnurture but almost always strangle.nEffective schools have strong principals who act not asnpaper-pushers but as academic leaders. Their teachers havena sense of teamwork. Their halls and classrooms are orderly:nteachers, students, and parents all know that discipline isntaken seriously. They concentrate on the traditional academicnsubjects, not on fads. They reward excellence innthose subjects and discourage mediocrity. They are committednto moral and intellectual values that are shared by bothnteachers and parents.nWhen the U.S. Department of Education is workingnnormally — just quietiy humming away, not making headlines—nit is undermining every one of these preciousnqualities.nThe typical public school principal in the United Statesnhas less authority today than ever before. Decisions that henused to make in consultation with teachers are now made byncentral district offices, state and federal agencies, and courts.nParents looking for someone to hold accountable find thatnthe buck stops nowhere.nOn some issues the Department of Education’s regulation-writersnopenly dictate to local schools. Its Office fornCivil Rights, for example, requires that schools must havencoed gym classes. Its Office of Bilingual Education andnMinority Languages Affairs pressures schools toward maximumnuse of languages other than English. The departmentnenforces a total of more than one thousand pages ofnfine-print laws and regulations—a standing refutation of then1950’s claim that federal aid would not promote federalncontrol.nMore subtly, the very structure of the department isnbiased toward centralization within each state. Its programsnare so numerous and so complicated that they requirenthousands of administrative intermediaries within the stateneducation agencies and the central offices of local schoolndistricts. These’ employees are often paid directly fromnfederal funds; their primary loyalty is to the federal programsnto which they owe their jobs. In a bureaucratic “invasion ofnthe body snatchers,” the department has in effect producedn50 clones of itself in the state capitals. The average stateneducation agency gets around half its administrative budgetnfrom Washington.nThe “reform” agenda promoted by Terrel Bell andnWilliam Bennett has made these agencies even fatter. Anformer state bureaucrat. Bell had an incurably top-downnvision of “reform”; he saw it as a collection of orders fromnthe state capital to local officials. The preferred tool for hisn1983 National Commission on Excellence in Educationnand its many imitators was the omnibus statute enacted bynseveral state legislatures, including those in Florida andnCalifornia, which specified more minutely than ever whatnlocal educators must and must not do. Instead of openingnthe schools to the stimulus of deregulation and competition,nthe Reagan years were spent trying to homogenize the leastnhomogenizable of all social services.nThe federal government is also an enemy of commonnsense in school discipline. Here the leading villains are thencourts, but agencies such as the Department of Educationnand the Legal Services Corporation have played importantnsupporting roles. Through rulings such as Goss v. Lopezn(1975), judges have gradually legitimized the view thatnchildren have the same constitutional rights as adults. Tonsuspend or expel a student these days is to risk a federal case;nif the student sues, his lawyers can get research ammunitionnfrom the department’s Office for Civil Rights and the LSC’snCenter for Law and Education.nThe very structure of the Department ofnEducation is biased toward centraHzationnwithin each state. Its programs are sonnumerous and so compHcated that theynrequire thousands of administrativenintermediaries within the state educationnagencies and local school districts.nThe Office for Civil Rights has repeatedly pressurednschools with large minority enrollments to keep detailednrecords of all suspensions, broken down by race and sex.nThe data must be available on demand to OCR’s army ofnfield inspectors. The agency’s tacit assumption is that anyn”disparity” must be due to racism or sexism. (It is alsonsuspicious of disparities in tracking and promotions.) Onendisgruntled educator told me that he was tempted to adopt anpolicy of “punishment by quota” to keep OCR at bay.nDiscipline is not the only issue in which Washington’snvalues clash with the values of many or most parents.nAnother is feminism. Here, too, the Department of Educationnis anything but neutral: the grant-givers at its Women’snEducational Equity program and the social scientists at itsnOffice of Educational Research and Improvement simplyntake it for granted that the only value worth considering isn”equality.” They refuse to entertain the possibility that anynbehavioral difference between the sexes might be caused bynanything except discrimination. They use tax dollars fornevangelism, subsidizing curricula and teacher-training programsndesigned to bring their feminist orthodoxy to a captivenaudience in the nation’s classrooms.nSome of these grants, for example, have gone to AmericannUniversity’s Mid-Atlantic Center for Sex Equity for thenpurpose of “changing teacher behavior” toward boys andngiris in class. The directors of this grantee, David and MyranSadker, believe that teachers must give absolutely equalnattention to both sexes — even if their male students arenmore likely to act aggressively, disruptively, or in other waysnthat demand more attention. When one brave teacher wrotenan article charging that such projects are ideologicallynbiased, the Sadkers responded by admitting it: “What is thenother side of this issue? Is it that equity is not a good idea?”nDuring my brief tenure at the Office of EducationalnResearch and Improvement—which I tried to abolish — wenreceived a grant proposal from New York University psychologistnPaul Vitz, who wanted to study how public schoolnnnJUNE 1990/27n