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Monday, November 15, 2010

Save Education (and GOP Consistency): Dump No Child Left Behind

Pres. Bush signs NCLB in Hamilton, Ohio, Jan. 8, 2002; credit Paul Morse, White HousePresident George W. Bush signs the No Child Left Untested Behind Act into law. Senator Ted Kennedy and Representative John Boehner flank the President at the signing ceremony in Boehner's district, Hamilton, Ohio, January 8, 2002. White House photo by Paul Morse.
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.


  1. As a student I dislike the no child gets left behind act, it seems like it was a step in education reform, but it wasn't a helpful one. I hope one day that our government will be more progressive with education reforms, and no child left behind act is really just a sad excuse for a law on education.

    Lena Peterson
    Deuel High School

  2. Ms. Peterson, would you care to comment on this statement?

    "Add heritage languages to schools. Teach high school men and women in separate classrooms dressed in business casual. Engage high schoolers in administration with a voting member. Eliminate middle schools."

  3. Honestly that doesn't really bother me. I mean education should come first. Shouldn't it?

    Lena Peterson
    Deuel High School

  4. Thanks, Lena, for the opinion from the trenches! If you get a chance, see if you can get an opinion on that video from your teachers. Hmm... that might even make an interesting article for the school newspaper!

  5. Cory,
    For once I totally agree with you--get the feds COMPLETELY out of education. Local school boards should make the decisions and LOCAL parents, businesses, and families should pay for education--NOT the state, NOT the feds. Each local school should be financed locally. By all means students should be dressed in business casual and should address their teachers and peers as one would have to behave to keep a job. Less sports, more work study, smaller schools. Our BEST students came from one room schools where teachers and students worked together to teach the younger students. More churches should have small schools, more families should home school. If one choses NOT to use the public school system a tax deduction should be provided.
    Schools, like newspapers and other media are by nature bias. Therefore we should quit pretending that they are not and openly declare what each one is teaching or the bias that they are reporting from.

  6. Mera, if you and I and Kristi Noem can form a coalition just long enough to kill NCLB, I'm in! We can argue about the size and advisability of that tax deduction, as well as the merits of the one-room school, afterward.

    Curious: is bias inherently bad? And do schools not acknowledge their bias? When I teach, I always acknowledge my bias as a teacher. At the front of the classroom, I am biased toward democracy, constitutional liberty, civic responsibility, good grammar....

  7. ...and according to Sir Ken Robinson above, we need to be biased toward divergent thinking and aesthetic experiences. Does your school (public, parochial, or home) do that?

  8. I find Mera's proposal for complete local funding of public schools and her proposal for a tax deduction for not using public schools to contradict each other. A "tax deduction" implies an income tax deduction. School districts don't levy income taxes nor does the state of South Dakota. "Tax deduction" implies federal income tax. In her second sentence she demands local funding of schools "NOT the state, NOT the feds". A federal tax deduction would be a direct federal subsidy to those people that don't use the public schools. An obvious contradiction in her positions.


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