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

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bush, Gradgrind, and NCLB

Part of a nice piece at Huffington:
. . . . What Bush's NCLB has done has been to impose an insupportable burden on the dangerously overcrowded and underfunded public school system in America, all in the name of helping the children of the poor, without actually helping to change the living conditions which so contribute to their failure rate. God save us all from such helpers. Worst of all it has imposed that greatest burden on all our beleaguered children. They are overworked and under-stimulated at the time of life when we learn more from discourse than by memorizing, when we learn from the pleasure that comes from exploring our own possibilities: practicing the arts, playing wild games (as distinguished from organized sports) and by not turning the world into a set of flash-card facts and winners and losers. A truly child-concerned program would include Civics courses so that every child knows how government works, thus nobody would ever vote for the likes of a George Bush again and have such educational programs imposed upon young lives. We might even produce the creative adults that we need for our future. Yes, there is factual information that a child must have to move forward in the world, but I don't for a moment believe that improved test scores will make for a better educated or more productive society. It is an Orwellian way to regulate minds, train children for robotic future jobs, rather than learning for the living of a better life. Does a hand-made education sound elitist? Utopian? Sure it does, but education is elitist and utopian or it is not education. It must be tailor made, one size cannot fit all, otherwise it is not education; it is regimentation. Our hope is to raise children with a love for learning because learning can be a joyful experience, right up there with sex and rap and iPods and computer games. Expensive? Undoubtedly. Hard to accomplish? Certainly. But there is no short-cut to the educated mind. Most of all there is no cheap quick fix for the problems facing our schools. It will cost for smaller class sizes and better paid, better prepared teachers, but nowhere near as much as a year in Bush's bottomless war. When we invade the public schools as we invaded Iraq with some Bushian fantasy we have those unintended consequences of educational casualties, creative children who are left behind. This learning by testing is the educational version of those missing WMDs, the product of a willful ignorance. You only need to read Charles Dickens "Hard Times" and you will see the NCLB method as practiced by Mr. Grandgrind, that horror of sadistic educational practice. It was Grandgrind who famously said, "Now what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts. Facts alone are wanted today." . . .

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