Thursday, May 22, 2008

With the political campaign heating up, attention is beginning to fall on Bush's No Child Left Behind program for public schools. The program has drawn loads of scathing criticism for its top-down approach to solving problems and the inept way that it has been implemented in many schools, including the snarky No Child Left Behind -- Football Version

All teams must make the state playoffs and all MUST win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are champions, and coaches will be held accountable. If after two years they have not won the championship, their footballs and equipment will be taken away until they do win the championship.

It would be a great analogy if it kept things in proportion. NCLB is not, as the blog claims, supposed to prepare children to win the championship. It's supposed to prepare children to qualify for the team. Way-big difference. Currently too many schools are not bothering to prepare children to qualify for the team.

The other day a young woman came over to our house for some math tutoring. She had graduated with good grades from the local "good" high school and is probably gifted, but she had never been taught the fundamental concepts she was supposed to learn. She couldn't subtract 0.5 from 6. While this distressed the adults in the room, it totally amazed my home-schooled eight year-old, who could do all the problems on the woman's college homework assignment in her head. I finally had to distract the child with cartoons before the poor woman died of embarrassment.

While NCLB is a step in the wrong direction, it only got passed because public schools weren't doing their job in the first place. To quote from today's AP article

Educators look at that goal and say, 'These people must be kidding,'" Petrilli said.

Even if educators have that view, parents don't, says Kerri Briggs, the Education Department's assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education.

"They would like their kids to be on grade level now and not 50 years from now, not 20 years from now, but this year," Briggs said.

Let's not even try to kid anybody. The only reason NCLB passed in the first place was because the public schools were broke and had refused to do anything substantive to fix their problems for decades. Desperation was the cause for NCLB, not malevolence. Yes, there are a few loonies around who want to end public education, because a working public education system (as opposed to the mess we got now) is essential to a working democracy. But NCLB was not passed because of a few loonies. It was passed because a substantial number of parents in this country are fed up with their schools not working.

Want to end government interference in the school system? Fix the blooming schools without government interference. If the schools are not willing to fix their problems on their own, they can't blame their customers, the parents, for trying to fix the problems for them.

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