This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, May 13, 2015:
According to his own Wikipedia page, George Nethercutt touts himself as a “conservative.” After all, in the 1994 Republican landslide that gave the Republican Party control of the House for the first time in 40 years, Nethercutt replaced Speaker of the House Tom Foley. It was close: just 4,000 votes out of more than 215,000 cast. But that was enough.
In truth that meant that Nethercutt won by 2,000 votes, as that was the number of votes to be changed to allow Foley to keep his seat. Nethercutt’s promise that he would leave after three terms likely made the difference. After all, Foley had been representing Washington for 30 years as a hard left liberal Democrat, and voters had finally had a bellyful of him.
Unfortunately Nethercutt was in Washington, DC, long enough to drink the Kool-Aid of excessive hubris and self-importance, and when it came time for him to honor his promise, he broke it, and ran again for a fourth term. Enough voters in Washington didn’t care and returned him to office in 2000 and again in 2002.
By then he had sold out, and his voting record reflected it. The Freedom Index, developed by The John Birch Society deliberately to compare politicians’ voting records to the Constitution, tracked his decline. In the 106th Congress (1999-2000) Nethercutt voted constitutionally 60 percent of the time. This is nothing to brag about, but a far better record than that of Foley. But in the 107th Congress (2001-2002) Nethercutt slipped to 43 percent, and in the 108th he fell off the edge of the table with a despicable 33 percent Freedom Index rating.
So when Nethercutt came to exclaim about the state of public education in the United States and how students’ lack of knowledge regarding the basics of freedom and the Constitution was threatening the very survival of the Republic itself, his self-righteous indignation somehow rang hollow.
He was decrying reports from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which compared the performance of American students to that of students from 65 countries around the globe. US students are nowhere near the top in math, science, or literacy. Twenty-nine educational systems turn out better students than does the US in mathematics, while students in 22 systems were more capable in science than were US students. In reading literacy 19 educational systems turned out more skilled students than the US public school system.
Eighth-graders participating in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test given under the auspices of the Department of Education showed no significant improvement over their dismal performance recorded four years ago. Just 18 percent of them scored at or above the Proficient level in U.S. history, while 27 percent scored Proficient in geography and 23 percent reached or exceeded that level in civics.
Nethercutt didn’t mention the latest from Pew Research, “What the Public Knows,” which showed that 91 percent of Americans recognized Martin Luther King from his photograph taken nearly 50 years ago, but fewer than a third of them knew the current makeup of the US Senate (54 Republicans, 44 Democrats and two Independents) nor did they know how many women were on the Supreme Court (three). In fact, close scrutiny of the results from Pew indicated that the Millennials (age 18-34) knew even less than the average American.
The findings showed broad failures. If policymakers don’t soon pay attention to such failures, the perpetuation of citizen understanding of the basic concepts of the American system will continue to be at risk….
When Americans are oblivious of basic constitutional principles, American society suffers. Such omissions are akin to a vehicle driver being unaware of the rules of the road, not understanding the importance of traffic lights, stop signs, or rights-of-way at intersections. Such ignorance is bound to result in a crash and injury.
And unless things change, moaned Nethercutt, things are just going to get worse:
Without change, leaders of tomorrow – today’s students – will undertake leadership obligations in Congress, state legislatures, city councils, school boards, and other important venues without the knowledge necessary to perpetuate the constitutional freedoms that have developed over two centuries.
These are the constitutional freedoms that he worked so diligently to abrogate while serving his five terms in the House. A close look at Nethercutt’s early years will reveal him to be a product of public schooling and then traditional (read: elite establishment liberal humanist) indoctrination, earning degrees in English from Washington State University and a law degree from Gonzaga University. He clerked for a federal judge before joining the staff of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska.
Yes, the very same Ted Stevens who built his fortune over 40 years in the Senate through handing out favors to his business friends (à la the Bridge to Nowhere and the Airport to Nowhere) until the Los Angeles Times blew the whistle on his self-dealing. That led to a federal investigation and charges that then led to his conviction on seven felonies, making the Alaskan senator only the fifth sitting senator to be convicted by a jury in U.S. history.
Rather than bailing out to retain whatever was left of his honor and integrity, Nethercutt remained Stevens’ loyal chief of staff until Stevens was voted out by disgusted voters in 2008.
Having uncovered all of that, however, doesn’t mean that Nethercutt is wrong in chastising the public school system. After all, it was responsible for him! But his solution is more government: “All states should adopt basic requirements for graduation.”
That’s the ticket, George! More of the same!
Happily, the home-schooling movement has virtually exploded over the last generation, with more than two million young people being taught what they need to know to preserve the republic, as noted by none other than the Department of Education’s Educational Resources Center:
Homeschool student achievement test scores were exceptionally high. The median scores for every subtest at every grade were well above those of public … school students.
On average, homeschool students in grades one to four performed one grade level above their age-level peers on achievement tests….
Even with a conservative analysis of the data, the achievement levels of the homeschool students in the study were exceptional. Within each grade level and each skill area, the median scores for homeschool students fell between the 70th and 80th percentile of students nationwide….
For younger students, this is a one-year lead. By the time homeschool students are in 8th grade, they are four years ahead of their public/private school counterparts.
Poor George was born too early. Otherwise he might have turned out to be a real constitutionalist in the House rather than just another squishy Republican, and a real force for good in the freedom fight.
The Hill: Americans get an F in civics
The Nation’s Report Card: New Results Show Eighth-Graders’ Knowledge of U.S. History, Geography, and Civics