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No Child Left Behind and a Culture of Unaccountability

The Paper of Record recounts today that sad plight of public school bureaucrats across the nation who have taken to defensive, defeatist whining in the face of federal oversight. It must be said that as a teacher with distinct federalist tendencies, I have no real love for President Bush’s master plan. But it has this going for it: it has a goal in mind. For all of the weeping about federal intrusion, the NCLB statute has a modest goal of achieving basic adequacy in reading and mathematics by 2014. As any teacher or parent would tell you, that is a minimum, a baseline level of acceptable education. The fact that the target date was pushed out ten years indicates just how pathetic our public school systems have become. In ten years, we hope to boast that every student in America’s public school system will be able to read and address math problems at grade level. Yes, that will be glorious day, and many will rejoice (during commercial breaks from “Desperate Polygamist Housewives”). We will all sing and dance (to Japanese karaoke machines, because Americans can’t design them) in fields of flowers amid fluttering confetti (produced by a Finnish shedder because Americans can’t produce one, operated by Azerbaijani technicians because Americans can’t be trained, using confetti produced in the Congo because Americans won’t tear paper for religious reasons). I can’t wait, but I think we’ll continue homeschooling until then. Our children can at least make confetti.

The Department of Education is threatening to withhold federal funds from schools that do not have a testing plan in place. This is the source of the screams of despair. How hard could it be to test literacy? The only reason to delay is if one knows, as many a state education secretary does, that their schools not only no longer teach basic skills, but do not even aspire to. Instead they minister to the psychological and intellectual detritus of broken homes and collapsing morals, blithely offering Twinkies to the malnourished. There has been zero accountability in public education for generations. Education professional are whining not about policies, but only about the fact of accountability. That is revealing. NCLB has at least begun to pull back the curtain on the circus of pathos that is American public education, and the Department of Education is at least threatening to do what few voters have: cut off the spigot of cash. Without the check ‘o plenty provided by the taxpayer, the calliope would collapse instantly, apparatchiks would lose their positions, and real change would happen, if only by default. In this way, NCLB is a good thing.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 25, 2006 9:44 AM.

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