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

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Destroying the Republic

As I have pointed out elsewhere, Spellings has one saying that is being proven more true every day: What gets tested, gets taught.

Now the popular media has begun realizing what many educators have known for years: What does not get tested does not get taught. Sam Dillon's NY Times story today makes that point very clear, and it points to the need for more people like O'Connor and Romer to speak out in support of a school curriculum that addresses the economic, social, cultural, and political needs of a democratic republic.

What we have, though, is a stifling of political consiousness, particularly in the poorest communities during these early years of NCLB. Unless NCLB is altered or jettisoned altogether, the demise, however, of social studies, the arts, science, and extracurricular activities will spread as the impossible goal of 100% proficiency begins to catch up with even the wealthier suburban schools.

And as I've said, too, before, the poor are the canaries in this dark mine of NCLB, and they are being poisoned by the millions as childhood learning, itself, is being converted in a joyless and unending grind that is intended to politically and intellectually lobotomize large segments of the population that have remained out of reach of conservative political sloganeering.

Here is a clip from Dillon's piece:

SACRAMENTO — Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush's signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.

Schools from Vermont to California are increasing — in some cases tripling — the class time that low-proficiency students spend on reading and math, mainly because the federal law, signed in 2002, requires annual exams only in those subjects and punishes schools that fall short of rising benchmarks. The changes appear to
principally affect schools and students who test below grade level.

The intense focus on the two basic skills is a sea change in American instructional practice, with many schools that once offered rich curriculums now systematically trimming courses like social studies, science and art. A nationwide survey by a nonpartisan group that is to be made public on March 28 indicates that the practice, known as narrowing the curriculum, has become standard procedure in many communities. . . .


  1. I was having a conversation today with two of my teaching colleagues in which we discussed cursive writing. Our middle school students cannot read it or write it. As pointed out, if it is not tested, it is not taught. Granted cursive is probably on the low priority when it comes to math and reading; however, is anyone concerned that we will have created a whole generation of students who cannot read their countries founding documents that were written in cursive? Our students will need translators.

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  3. Anonymous8:59 PM

    How can you do social studies or sciences, or indeed many of the arts if you can't read or write or do maths?

    And even for those arts that can be taught without reading or writing do not compensate for the lack of reading and writing. How can a great musician get a scholarship if they can't read about the scholarship, or write well enough to fill out the application form?

    And isn't it very cruel to let poor children leave school unable to pass a test in reading or writing or basic mathematics?

    "politically and intellectually lobotomize" - oh yeah, I mean we just know that kids who can read and write are just slaves of the patriarchy, while kids who are illiterate and innumerate are the only ones who are truly free. Those kids who can read and write are doomed to having to choose between life possibilities such as going into politics, or into medicine, or inventing solar ovens for the poor, or becoming a novelist, while those kids who are freely illiterate and innumerate have the wonderful possibilities of being a checkout chick. Or stacking boxes. And voting for candidates based only on TV ads.

    And what sort of terrible educator are you if you can't teach reading or writing or maths in an interesting way? I didn't think my teachers at primary school were superheros, but at least they were competent.