David Hartman’s comments about the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) tests are on the mark (Cultural Revolutions, February). It is a widespread practice for Texas teachers to “teach the TAAS.” Depriving students of a broad-based liberal arts education has never been so common. History classes are being downgraded to “social studies” status so that the popular, politically correct ideology of the time can be promoted.

I have been married for 15 years to a 21-year veteran educator in the Ector County Independent (a misnomer) School District. During that time, I have witnessed a steady decline in the morale of teachers not only in my wife’s system, but also in our own Midland Independent (ditto) School District. I attribute this decline to the Texas Education Agency’s bureaucratic preoccupation with requiring ever more paperwork from teachers, who are already suffering the effects of the erosion of discipline in the classroom. The liberal establishment’s belief in more accountability from teachers and less from students has created an almost unbearable situation. Only those veterans who are near retirement stay on. Younger educators, for the most part, leave after three to five years, and not solely for economic reasons.

I cannot comprehend why school board members across the state submit to the whims of the TEA. This cancerous agency remains unchallenged by the Texas legislature, locally elected school board members, and their constituencies. Nothing will change until economic conditions have driven several generations of unemployable graduates to the welfare lines.

The state of public education today is a result of the policies of self-serving educrats who have implemented their liberal agenda across this country. The most technically advanced and industrialized nation in the world was built from a locally based educational system. Why was it scrapped? I believe that educational “reform” was an effort to change the fundamental beliefs of Americans by focusing on the “me first” mentality and the promotion of class envy. It is difficult for me to believe that the educrats’ motivation is a genuine concern for our children. An uneducated, illiterate, dependent society is easier to manipulate than an educated, literate, and independent citizenry.

I agree with Mr. Hartman’s conclusion that any effort to reform education must begin by returning control to the local level. Allowing choice and competition would revive true excellence in the classroom.

        —J.P.”Pat” McDaniel
Midland, TX

I couldn’t help being amused by David Hartman’s earnest account of a former New Zealand MP and cabinet minister, Maurice P. McTigue, telling Texans how to run their school system.

Canada has suffered a surfeit of Kiwi expertise. It seems to have started about 1989 with another former New Zealand cabinet minister. Sir Roger Douglas, who was brought in by the spendaholic Mulroney Conservatives to tell us that we needed a seven-percent federal goods-and-services tax on top of all the other taxes which cripple the Canadian economy. A few years later, this versatile sage popped up in Alberta to tell us that we need a low-tax, low-spending government policy.

For a while afterward, Albertans could not get enough Kiwi advice. Hardly a week went by when either the provincial government or some special-interest group did not import a New Zealander to tell us that what the last New Zealander had told us to do was wrong. Eventually, however, the deluge from Down Under dried up. Maybe we went through all three-and-a-half million of their experts.

Mr. Hartman does not say how Minister McTigue came to address the conference in Texas. In Canada, we paid the Kiwis, either through special-interest group grant money or directly through our taxes. Since Mr. Hartman seems receptive to advice from foreigners, let me pass this on: You need not pay New Zealanders to come to your country to tell you how to run it any more than you need pay Jamaicans to come to your country to tell you that you are racist. They will do it anyway.

        —Greg Klein
Calgary, Alberta