"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Pigs Without Lipstick

Some political analysts find significant parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, from lies told to get the wars started, to lies told to keep the wars going, to lies told to justify the declarations of victory in the face of defeat. Those of us in education who have been following the parallel wars and planned wars on Iraq and on American public schools since 2001 have our own dots to connect. The Iraq lies to get the war stoked and started are now well documented (see presidential poll data for evidence that the jig is up). Less talked about by the media and the public are the big lies behind the war on public education that began in earnest with the passage of NCLB.

The biggest lies, of course, are the one about not leaving any children behind and about closing the achievement gap. Even though the Law does carry the impossible requirement that all children will be at grade level in reading and math by 2014, this demand is as likely to be realized as the Bush team successfully imposing democracy in Iraq. If Iraq ends up with a democracy, it will not be because Richard Perle and Dick Cheney thought it was a good idea to impose one in a place that has a 50-year oil supply—but because the Iraqi people paid the price to grow the institutions and political infrastructure to make it happen. Similarly, if the achievement gap between the rich and poor is to be closed in America, it will not be because Rod Paige or Maggie Spellings declared that educators would make it happen in a civic space that is worth $450 billion a year in potential profit for the education industry, but rather, because the American people are willing to pay the price to begin to close the gaps in opportunity, housing, income, health care, and school funding. Blaming the schools for not achieving what we as a people have decided is not important is the logical equivalent of blaming the Iraqi people for not appreciating our rock-headed notion that democracy can be imposed by the U. S. military.

Victory, victory, victory. Just as the White House now lies about how Iraqi-azation is working, with 14 Iraqi brigades taking the lead in recent battles against insurgents (despite eyewitness reports to the contrary), Spellings claims that test scores show that the achievement gaps are closing. More lies. Just as the White House allows signals from Condi to bring some relief to the majority of American who support withdrawal of troops, Bush insists that staying the course is the way to victory. And while recent announcements about accepting growth models brings some psychic relief to those willing to believe that the assured failure of the public schools has been taken off the table, Spellings insists that the impossible demand of 100% proficiency has not changed.

There is one truth that undercuts all these lies. Both Iraq and NCLB are now being seen as debacles of the first order, created and implemented by arrogant, pigheaded ideologues who convinced themselves they could bully their way to undermining the true democratic values that once made this country the envy of the world. The lipstick is off both of these pigs, and there is nothing that more lying can do to make either of these trough feeders any more attractive to anyone--who is not a pig.

1 comment:

  1. There's an interesting story in today's NYT on how states are having to shoulder more and more of the burden to provide basic health care for children -- leaving less money for public schools. Although the reporter does not mention that trivial consequence of this huge financial burden and debacle that is the U.S. healthcare system.

    The article points out that "11 states facing political and financial pressure," have made it more difficult for eligible children to retain coverage.

    So, in order to pay for No Child Left Behind -- they have to find new and creative ways to leave children behind -- let's see, tests or healthcare?