Sunday, March 30, 2008

NCLB Myths; Um... No

I responded to a Washington Post opinion piece written by Hoover Institution's senior fellow Chester E. Finn Jr.

His assertion is that there are at least five Myths about NCLB that need clarification. After reading his piece I was convinced he hadn't -cough- done his homework.

His list of myths is:

1. No Child Left Behind is an unprecedented extension of federal control over schools.
2. No Child Left Behind is egregiously underfunded.
3. Setting academic standards will fix U.S. schools.
4. The standardized testing required by No Child Left Behind gets in the way of real learning.
5. Certified teachers are better than non-certified teachers.

My response to his arguments to the contrary of these "myths" was largely that he was asking the wrong questions.

Finn's framing of the arguments starts with the assumption that standardized testing is good and that NCLB is strictly a neutral proposition whose issues are arguments about tweaking the thing.

I disagreed to the extent I could in the space provided.
Mr. Finn's "myths" obfuscate as much of the horror of NCLB as they expose of any functional misunderstanding the public may have of this legislation.

Myth 1: I'm a Liberal and Mr Finn is dead wrong. There are few states in the union that can afford to operate without federal funding. If NCLB were not mandatory then the ransom of being denied federal funding would not exist.

The fact that it does exist is extortionary. The price of accepting federal funding brought along a neo-conservative agenda that is not only killing the public school system but poisoning our children. In CT, children no longer dissect frogs in Biology because the State Department of Education's mandates to local districts to improve science test scores and conform to every more numerous testing expectations. Hands on activities like this that once fed our universities students interested in biology and doctoring have dried up.

And Spellings has made it clear in recent statements that only states who have not been critical of NCLB will be eligible for a break from the draconian stupidity it currently administers. Why? Can it be an example of Czarist educational administration on the part of the federal government?

I think so. < pop-quiz > Does the history of education matter?

Myth #2 - Is NCLB under-funded? Wrong question. NCLB deserves not a dime of our taxes.

Is NCLB bankrupting public education? YES!

NCLB's draconian and sick inertia to force schools into producing uniform widget beings instead of individual, thinking children is devastating. Technology is almost non-existent in schools as is teachers who can even use any modern software.

Schools have become social service money sources for every conceivable child's illness, allergy, and nuanced behavioral problem. Local taxes are expected to foot the bill (not that the State's smoke and mirrors rhetoric doesn't deny the expensive fact). Good for medical insurance companies, bad for taxpayers.

The by-product is a school system that correlates nicely to the totalitarian school systems that the Department of Education studies so intently and takes regular junkets to.

The recent NY Times expose of American dropout rates reveals that our schools are losing as many kids as possible to show statistical conformity to NCLB. We are more like a class nation than ever.

Myth #3

States who follow NCLB rigorously are performing acts of child abuse. Education Week reports that Advanced placement courses are drying up. Our brightest and best are being institutionally stunted. Dropouts are epidemic leaving the poor and disenfranchised to near certain prison existences.

These are not academic standards, this is the blunt state instrument of conform or else!

Myth #4 "the accountability made possible by standardized testing isn't all bad."

No they are all bad. And the reason is that they ignore multiple intelligence theory, they don't honor the uniquenesss of the individual child, and the spiritual call to lifelong pursuit for those children is crushed so that neo-cons in Washington and Stanford feel good.

Myth #5 No argument but this has nothing to do with NCLB. Schools need to recognise alternative forms of educating students.

- Frank Krasicki

My assertions are annotated at

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