"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sick of NCLB

I got an email this morning from an old friend and former college roommate who has been an educator for more than thirty years. He has spent his professional life in public education, trying to help kids make the transition to adulthood, doing his best to change things for the better. He has been a teacher, administrator, and now, a superintendent. We haven't always seen eye to eye on educational issues, but we do agree that what we do with our students while they're in school will determine not just their futures, but the future of our nation.

In his email he told me that he was sick of complaining about NCLB and was hoping that a change in administration will change the direction education has taken in the last 5 years. He said that I was preaching to the choir with him and that he agreed with what I had to say.

Well...I'm sick of complaining about NCLB, too...but I'm even more sick of watching it damage students and teachers, destroy schools and school systems, weaken public schools in general, and misrepresent what is happening in the public schools of the United States.

I wish I could believe that a change in administration would change the course of public education in the US, but I believe that the errors of NCLB go much further than the current administration. The errors of NCLB go to the very nature of the economic and social culture of the US.

No child left behind is the logical outgrowth of the now discredited report "A Nation at Risk." It is no mistake that the errors in that report were quashed by the Reagan administration.* Yet the myths of that era were embraced by the nation by Democrats as well. Bill Clinton was just as eager to develop a "national curruculum" as the Republicans. His administration was just as quick to call for the grade retention of students who didn't pass "the test" as the Republicans. He was just as willing to use standardized testing as the benchmark from which all school results are gathered and compared as are the Republicans.

We don't have the luxury of being sick of complaining about NCLB. The students who are under our care are being damaged right now. If we sit back and wait for things to change who will be the voice of the students who are being pushed to drop out so their low test scores won't effect AYP? Who will be the voice of the 5 year olds who are being drilled and killed so they can improve their DIBELS scores?

If not us, who? If not now, when?

* See Gerald Bracey's "The 10th Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education"
http://www.pdkintl.org/kappan/kbra0010.htm

4 comments:

Phil said...

I'm the old friend about which Stu wrote. He's right, of course. Clinton went right along with the crap spawned from "A Nation...."

The problem with public educators is that we too often are self-deprecating about what we do and our daily successes. Our failures are well publicized, but in most public schools 80 to 90 percent graduate, more go to college than ever before, and there is joy in the classroom. "Burnout" and cynics certainly exist, but those unfortunates really are in the minority. I think most of us have kept the idealism that led us to education in the first place.

We still believe in a bright future for our students, in the promises kept within their heads for discovery, for love, and for happiness. We still enjoy seeing the spark that glows, then flames into enthusiasm for something new, something amazing, something that makes them actually jump with glee. They really do that, you know.

All politicians should be forced to spend a week with a good teacher. Mega company CEO's need to do the same, then donate one percent of their disgusting salaries and stock options to their local public schools. Perhaps only then can they appreciate what is really going on. Are their bad schools? Of course, but I'll venture to say that the percentage of bad schools pales in comparison to percentage of corrupt politicians or dishonest business exectives.

We really are the good guys. Maybe naive to some, but we sleep well and we like our work.

Stu said...

Thanks Phil. I knew you were still one of us :)

Sam said...

After the politicians spend that week with a good teacher, they should then be forced to substitute in the inner city 6th grade classroom that has had no permanent teacher all year, that has been split up and sent to other classrooms in the building (but, really, most of the kids are just running wild), and has had a run of subs each more incompetent than the last. We'll see what that politician is made of then. I predict not a one would last longer than 2 days.

Stu said...

I agree, but I think you meant that not one would last longer than two HOURS...not days.