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

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I have argued for some time that NCLB is the domestic equivalent of our Decider's FUBAR war on Iraq, from the lies to get us to get us there, to the lies to keep us there, to the tons of cash being shoveled out of the federal treasury into the pockets of corporate crooks and cronies, all while the troops on the front lines have to buy their own body armor and teaching supplies. And the end game? $$$, of course: a fifty year supply of oil and a never-ending stream of corporate welfare checks for Macschools to manufacture a reliable inventory of soldier-worker widgets whose knowledge of their Republic's past is as blank as their hopes for the future of it.

David Berliner says it much nicer in this piece that is circulating among Web discussion groups:
Berliner, D. C. (2006). No Child Left Behind: It cannot work, it does not work, and it causes harm along the way. (Unpublished manuscript.)

Although bi-partisan support was obtained for both the Iraq war and the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act, the current administration handling both the act of war and the act to improve education showed a serious lack of understanding of the problems that needed to be solved. For example, in Iraq, there was no understanding of how we would be greeted by the Iraqi people, with ignorant and arrogant officials of the present administration saying that we would be greeted by well-wishers throwing flowers at our troops. And in the passage of NCLB there was no mention of childhood poverty, and the development of racially isolated schools throughout the US, despite the clear understanding that the schools that need the most improvement are those that serve the poorest most racially isolated children in the country. Before committing to a war or a reform in education it would be nice to believe that our government understood what the problems in each domain really are.
Other similarities are obvious, since both the act of war and the NCLB relied upon sources of information whose credibility is dubious. The forged documents from Niger, Ahmed Chalbi, and Dick Cheney have their equivalents in Rod Paige, Phyllis Schaffly, Bill Bennett, the Manhattan Institute, Ed Trust, and the Heritage Foundation.
Similarly, some deliberate lies and distortions have been promoted about both the war and our schools. I note that Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell lied about the war to the public, while Secretary Rod Paige and his deputies lied about the state of the schools, teacher preparation, and the effectiveness of programs designed to help our schools.
Pursuing the similarities reveals also that vast sums of money are being made from our war, and from our educational system, by corporations with close ties to the administration. Halliburton and Kellog, Brown and Root in the war, McGraw-Hill in education.
Also, our soldiers, like our teachers, are not equipped for the fight they have been asked to engage in. Our soldiers had neither body armor nor armor for the undersides of vehicles, and many of the teachers of the poorest children in America have no certification, teach out of field, or are inexperienced.
Also, in its presentations to the public about the war and about our schools, the press has been manipulated and undermined. For example we now know that Judith Miller of the New York Times wrote what the administration told her about the war, while Armstrong Williams sold stories in praise of NCLB for cash from the department of education.
Furthermore, cronyism has shown up in appointing leaders to run the War and the NCLB Act. Rod Paige, his deputy, and Reid Lyon were cronies from Houston, Texas, who ran what is arguably the most corrupt school system in the history of America. Our new Secretary, Margaret Spellings, has been Bush’s political advisor, and a lobbyist, but neither an educator nor educational researcher.
Another similarity is that for both the war in Iraq and for the NCLB act, a mission accomplished has been proclaimed, with progress, we are told, being made every day. But actually, in both cases, victory seems to have been announced a little too prematurely. In fact, there is no evidence that American involvement in Iraq or America’s use of high-stakes testing has accomplished their missions at all. On the contrary, there exists considerable evidence that we have screwed up Iraq and education for at least a generation.
Perhaps the worst similarity of all is that despite overwhelming evidence of failure, the war act and the NCLB act continue to be defended, and our military and our schools are asked to meet impossible demands.
See, too, Daniel Pryzbyla's dead-on commentary from 2004, Privatizing War in Iraq, NCLB fuels deception.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous5:05 PM


    I have thought of this all along.

    What a terrible state our country is in.
    Thanks for sounding the alarm.