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Ralph Nader on Education

2008 Independent for for President; 2004 Reform nominee; 2000 Green nominee


Standardized tests designed to show public schools failing

From Providence we drove to the Boston Commons, where a rally organized by high school students against the MCAS standardized tests in Massachusetts and the looming privatization of public schools was under way. From afar, one could think that those youngsters just didn't like tests. But these youngsters had done their homework. Created by consulting firms that saw the corporate management of public schools as a profitable objective, these tests appear to be designed to show that public education was not working because so many students flunked. Experience in Texas with such manipulations led to higher dropout rates for high school students under Governor Bush. This testing tyranny forces the schools to teach to the tests, which themselves are narrow-scoped and misleading yardsticks. There is plenty of evidence to show that behind these tests is a commercial ideology panting to take over more and more of the $320 billion spent annually on public schools.
Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p.115 , Jan 17, 2002

Abandon standardized testing; focus on teaching civic skills

Nader wants to abandon not only the standardized testing both Bush and Gore endorse, but to radically refocus schools. Students “should learn, as the core curriculum, developing civic skills, learning how to practice democracy,” he said, “and the arithmetic, reading and writing will be a byproduct.”
Source: Scot Lehigh, Boston Globe, page D1 , Oct 8, 2000

Invest in K-12 education; that will reduce poverty

Education is clearly a significant factor in enhancing the future of impoverished children. Education levels bear heavily on efforts to bring families out of poverty and in providing livable wages for low and moderate and middle-income families.

We need to invest in the nation’s children. We must assure an adequate safety net, health care, higher quality and more plentiful child care and vastly better educational opportunities, particularly at Kindergarten through the 12th grade.

Source: Statement on Child Poverty , Jun 26, 2000

Teach democratic principles & citizenship in schools

Our country’s schoolchildren need to be taught democratic principles in their historic context and present relevance, with practical civics experiences to develop their citizen skills and a desire to use them, and so they will be nurtured to serve as a major reservoir of future democracy.
Source: The Concord Principles, An Agenda for a New Democracy, #10 , Feb 21, 2000

Kick Channel One & commercialism out of class

Would you want your children to see propaganda that glorifies reckless driving or that reinforces the poor body image of teenage girls? That’s exactly the kind of thing schoolkids are watching on Channel One, a so-called educational broadcast piped into classrooms. In essence, Channel One is run by a marketing company that uses the schools to deliver advertising to youngsters. Each school day, teachers turn on a TV show made up of two minutes of commercials and 10 minutes of “news.” Channel One’s lobbyists say that it’s “an old-fashioned newscast that often reflects traditional values.” Nice try. The “news” is just filler. What Channel One really conveys is materialism: that buying is good and will solve your problems, and that consumption and self-gratification are the goals of life. For real education reform that protects children, costs nothing, and increases productive class time, tell your school board to kick Channel One out of class.
Source: “In the Public Interest” newspaper column , May 12, 1999

Focus on civic & consumer education

Q: How would you manage the Department of Education differently?

A: I would put a very high priority on getting schools to teach civic education and connecting the classroom with the community. Getting youngsters, even as young as the fifth and sixth grades, to learn how to practice democracy, to connect knowledge to action. To help people grow up civic instead of growing up corporate is an important function of the Department of Education.

Our education system is becoming very vocational and very occupation-oriented, which is OK if it is not disproportionate and if it doesn’t squeeze out the most important role of education, which is civic.

I also would emphasize consumer education. Children are spending more and more money directly -- under 12 years of age they spent $ 12 billion last year, and they caused their parents to spend $ 150 billion. They need a consumer perspective, how to become a smart shopper.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday Interview, p. 3/Z1 , Oct 13, 1996

Support choice within public schools