Ken Buck pretends to understand education

KEN BUCK PRETENDS TO UNDERSTAND EDUCATION…. There are real drawbacks to major parties nominating candidates for key offices who approach policy debates with all the sophistication of a drunk guy yelling at the TV from the end of the bar.

Take Colorado’s Ken Buck, the Republican Senate candidate this year. He’s already known for being one of 2010’s nuttiest candidates — he wants to eliminate Social Security, scrap student loans, ban forms of birth control, eliminate all abortions under all circumstances, etc. — and this week, Buck showed off his policy depth by trying to talk about education.

“In the 1950s, we had the best schools in the world. And the United States government decided to get more involved in federal education. Where are we now, after all those years of federal involvement, are we better or are we worse? So what’s the federal government’s answer? Well since we’ve made education worse, we’re gonna even get more involved. And what’s gonna be the result? It’s kinda like health care. We’ve screwed up health care — Medicare — we’ve screwed up all kinds of other things, so what are we gonna do? We’re gonna get even more involved in health care. What are we going to do? We’re gonna get more involved in education.”

Well, we can probably scratch Buck from the list of “policy wonk” candidates.

As a substantive matter, it’s hard to know what Buck is even trying to say here. Federal involvement in local schools began in the 1950s? That’s only true to the extent that federal officials mandated the end of segregation. If Buck thinks this made “education worse,” he should probably elaborate on the subject. (If he was referring to the creation of the U.S. Department of Education, Buck was off by three decades — it wasn’t created until 1980.)

As for the notion that we’ve “screwed up health care,” I still don’t know what Buck is even trying to say. There was some passing reference to Medicare, but it was vague and meaningless. Is he saying the status quo in the health care system doesn’t work? Looking at the system, pre-ACA, I agree, but it wasn’t government intervention that caused the trouble. Indeed, that’s backwards.

The whole rant is just bizarre, blindly and haphazardly blaming government in ways that don’t even make sense. The larger point seems to be that schools were great in the 1950s, but they’re lousy now. Ian Millhiser explained that even this doesn’t make sense.

…Buck’s claim that American schools are worse now than they were in the 1950s is laughably wrong. In 1957, less than half of white Americans and fewer than one in five African-Americans graduated from high school. By 2002, however, almost nine in ten white children and eight in ten black children earned their diploma. Likewise, college graduation rates more than tripled during the same time period for both racial groups. Our country has a long way to go before we build the education system Americans deserve, but Buck is simply wrong to claim that American schools haven’t made massive strides since the 1950s.

But all of this is lost on Buck, just as reason is lost on the drunk guy shouting at the TV at the end of the bar. Government bad, schools bad, health care bad … voting for angry loudmouth good. Who can take this seriously?