One line in an NPR story this morning reminds me why I left the Republican Party... and how Kristi Noem could just maybe draw me back.
Morning Edition considers Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner: "Rebel or Compromiser?" Reporter Andrea Seabrook mentions that the leader of the newly elected small-government/anti-government majority in the House of Representatives helped pass an enormous expansion of federal authority over education, the No Child Left Behind Act. President Bush flew to Boehner's hometown of Hamilton, Ohio, to sign NCLB into law. Boehner has called this exercise in bureaucracy and testing "one of the proudest accomplishments of my tenure in Congress."
John Boehner thundered from the floor of the House last March against what he misperceived as a government takeover of health care. Yet he proudly oversaw a much clearer federal takeover of public education in the No Child Left Behind Act.
I have yet to hear from any South Dakota teacher or administrator a good explanation of how the No Child Left Behind Act has made it easier for them to educate our kids. One reasonable English teacher has told me that NCLB has produced more standardized testing data that she and colleagues can analyze and use as a basis for modifying their classroom strategies. However, all that data has come at significant expense, as schools pay consultants to process all the testing data into usable summaries, and as school districts rearrange curricula and schedules to make room for more standardized tests and training thereto. All that effort gets us numbers that look like solid, scientific, objective data but which really don't tell anything that conscientious teachers can't tell you simply by talking with the kids, quizzing them, reviewing their homework, and giving their honest professional assessment of the learning they've seen happen in their classrooms.
Opposition to No Child Left Behind and national standards ought to be a no-brainer for Republicans like John Boehner. Opposition to standardization is certainly a no-brainer for Sir Ken Robinson, a well-known advocate for serious educational reform. Robinson sees testing and national standards as a logical extension of the factory production-line thinking that has turned American education into an increasingly mind-numbing and ineffective exterprise.
A speech by Sir Ken Robinson gets this illustrated treatment by RSA Animate:
Representative-Elect Kristi Noem, establish your true classical conservative cred and mention this video to Speaker Boehner (once you get around to admitting you are going to vote for him). Cite this video to launch your crusade to get big government out of education and repeal No Child Left Behind.
And here on the homefront, fellow citizens, I would love to hear some local candidates run for school board and talk about Robinson's prescription for reforming our education system out of its kids-as-factory-outputs model and turning it into a system that fosters all those kindergarten geniuses.
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