Afghanistan Strategy Is the Only Hope for Education Reform

The federal government is currently enmeshed in two gigantic, expensive reform projects, one domestic and one foreign. Both are failures even though the tactics couldn’t be more different. In one — at a cost of $2.5 trillion — Uncle Sam is trying manfully to completely change a political culture.

In the other — at just under $1 trillion — Uncle Sugar won’t touch the culture. What is the same, and the ultimate source of failure, is the obstinate refusal of project architects to recognize their strategy isn’t working now and won’t be working in the future.

We’ll begin with the relatively cheap failure. Since 1980 the Dept. of Education has spent $872,519,440,000 on just primary and secondary education. The scores from the latest nationwide ACT college admission test are so bad that to forestall criticism of the entire effort, the focus has been shifted to the old perennial: The Achievement Gap.

The Washington Post reports, “Scores…show that just 9 percent of students in the class of 2017 who came from low–income families, whose parents did not go to college, and who identify as [minority] are strongly ready for college. But the readiness rate for students with none of those demographic characteristics was six times as high [at] 54 percent.”

Students with one of the three “handicaps” scored 26 percent college ready, while those with two of three came in at 15 percent.

It would be easy to look at the “six times” more successful and assume all was well in education, but don’t. These numbers indicate a failure so large Mitch McConnell could have been supervising the project.

There were 3.3 million high school graduates in the spring of 2017. Two million took the ACT test and of those 1,080,000 achieved scores indicating they are ready for college. The other 920,000 didn’t make the cut. When you add that number to the 1,333,000 graduates that already knew taking the test was a waste of time, the total of unprepared graduates was 2,253,000. So the feds spent $535 billion on these kids (not counting additional billions spent by state and local governments) during the 12 years they were in school and after that stupendous expenditure ($161,000.00 PER STUDENT!) only 32 percent were ready for college.

With those results its only natural the focus would be on the “achievement gap” between minorities and the other categories. In the understatement of the year ACT chief executive Marten Roorda said, “You could argue that those investments should have made a clearer difference and that’s not what we’re seeing.”

There is nothing intrinsically limiting about being a member of a minority. Genetics aren’t holding them back. Culture is holding them back.

This is where the really expensive culture–changing project becomes relevant. In Afghanistan the US is trying to install a modern democratic state in a land with a primitive, medieval, tribal culture whose only bow to modernity is a thin veneer of alternating current.

Yet there are similarities. US minority culture and Afghan culture feature strong tribal or gang–based loyalties. Both have impulsive honor/vengeance pathologies. And both feature poor education and a high illiteracy rate. Islamic fundamentalism is unique to Afghanistan as out–of–wedlock births are limited to the US example.

In Afghanistan experts ignore history and insist the country is just the breeding ground for the next showplace of democracy after the political culture is changed. In the US education experts ignore history and a culture change that’s responsible for education failure in the hope a few more Baby Einstein videos will do the trick.

Afghanistan has been corrupt for centuries and has absolutely no history of impartial representative government. Yet within living memory in the US the family culture, which is the root of education problems, was an asset to learning.

In 1950 the rate of out–of–wedlock births for black women was approximately 18 percent. Today the percentage is 72 percent. Ignoring this has real costs for the children. Spending billions at one end of the education cycle while ignoring the origin of the problem does nothing more than provide permanent, well–paid jobs for bureaucrats.

The feds should have no role in education in the first place. That’s a state and local responsibility. But if the money is going to be spent, spend it wisely. Try to change the dysfunctional culture of out–of–wedlock births and resulting poverty. Political culture change is destined for failure in Afghanistan, but there is a chance to revive the marriage culture here and in turn close the “achievement gap.”

Let’s try the Afghanistan strategy. Attack a dysfunctional culture directly. Emphasize marriage and finishing school before becoming a mother. After 17 years in Afghanistan we’ve made no difference. Here 17 years of culture emphasis could make a big difference.

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“Draining the Swamp” Isn’t a Part–Time Job

When the leftists at the Washington Post start offering relationship advice a Republican knows he could be on the cusp of something big. A recent WaPost headline warned, “Trump’s baffling attacks on McConnell could be costly to the president.”

“Cost” here is mainly a function of how often Trump is hoping to eat in the Senate’s invitation–only dining room. Otherwise what’s “baffling” is how long it took the notoriously impatient Trump to sound off.

After six months McConnell has failed to repeal Obamacare, failed to fund the wall, failed to reform the tax code, refused to return the Senate to pre–1970 filibuster rules and dismissed out of hand debating the one change that would do more to correct what’s wrong with Congress than any other: Term Limits.

The real risk to Trump and any hope he has for accomplishments in his first term is the status quo.

Currently Trump has achieved the unthinkable: Bi–partisan cooperation in Congress. Republicans are blocking what Trump wants to do and Democrats are blocking what Trump wants to do.

Something tells me the man who built Trump Tower didn’t win the presidency so he could be Mitch McConnell’s autopen.

Naturally there is division over how to persuade Congress to support Trump. I’m sure the General Staff, or at least the generals, advocate doubling down on the “hearts and minds” strategy to win over recalcitrant Congressional leadership.

Just schedule a few more summits, golf games, White House lunches and Twitter tutorials. Soon Trump will be able to emulate the success our high command has produced in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And continuing this strategy will produce results very similar to Afghanistan. McConnell will continue to be passive–aggressive and the Taliban aggressive–aggressive. Mitch, author of the unread tome “The Long Game,” and the Taliban both plan to outwait their opponents. Their intention is to be around after Trump and the Army are long gone.

The alternative to the appeaser’s long, slow defeat strategy is letting Trump be Trump.

The outsider who said during his inauguration, “For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.” The outsider who promised to drain the swamp, not stock the White House with reptiles.

The principle obstacle here is Trump. He is our first ADHD president. Moving an inert mass like McConnell’s Senate requires persistence and focus. So far Trump lacks both.

For example:

On July 27th Trump criticizes McConnell for failure to repeal Obamacare.

On August 8th Trump reverses course and endorses McConnell’s candidate, Luther Strange, in the Alabama special election.

On August 10th Trump lurches back into drive and says McConnell should resign from Senate leadership.

On August 15th Trump repeats his strange endorsement of Strange.

A tortoise like McConnell is immune to whiplash from this back–and–forth, but it only serves to reinforce what the WaPost says, “For some time, it has been apparent that members of Congress do not fear the president.”

That must change. Trump needs to play his “long game” and make opponents pay a price. Trump is holding a rally in Arizona next week, the home of craven media hound Jeff Flake who is conveniently up for re–election in 2018.

That’s the perfect time for Trump to announce he’s personally donating $50 million to the Make America Great Again PAC that will be supporting primary opponents of senators who are blocking the platform on which he won the presidency.

He can consider adding Utah’s Orrin Hatch and Tennessee’s Bob Corker to the list. It’s important that Trump doesn’t make the effort based on these lizard’s opposition to him personally, but rather their opposition to making America great again.

The primary opponents Trump supports don’t even have to win. They just have to make targeted incumbent’s life a living hell and an example of the consequences resulting from betraying the base.

Could it happen? Yes. Will it happen? Probably not.

The Strange endorsement proves Trump’s White House political operation is either second–rate or angling for jobs with the establishment GOP after Trump leaves.

Trump is also notoriously cheap, as his reneging on his pledge to fund his own campaign proved, so funding a PAC to support primary challengers is unlikely.

Finally, Trump has the attention span of a short circuit.

I’m afraid instead of reforming a political system run solely for the benefit of the elites; Trump will wind up being George Bush with an angry Twitter account. Forced to accept whatever crumbs and statist legislation McConnell and Speaker Paul Rino, excuse me, Ryan send him.