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

Friday, March 28, 2008

Retreat from Collective Madness or the Restoration of Sanity?

There's no doubt that the disgust arising from our Guantanamo Bay torture camps has peaked. This morning the papers report that all former and living American Secretaries of State have come out with a strong statement for ending this chapter of American shame.

At another level of our current political nightmare, disgust is growing daily from the organizational, ethical, and humanitarian disaster of No Child Left Behind. Here are a couple of the systemic outrages that Bracey brings to our attention in a blog post at Huffington:
. . . .Some play it as if they have lost all sense of proportion and common sense. The Texas Education Agency refused to grant a waiver from the state test for a young woman hospitalized after a serious automobile accident that killed her brother and left her memory impaired. Her school dispatched an assistant principal to administer the test in the hospital. Fortunately, one of the girl's teachers overheard what was up, got to the hospital first and told her to refuse to take it. In Colorado, a father, a teacher himself, sought to opt his daughter out of the state fifth grade test. Fine, said the superintendent, but she won't be promoted to sixth grade.

In Washington, a willing testee who simply couldn't think of how to respond to a writing prompt was harangued by his teacher, then by his principal and then by his mother. Unable to respond, he was forbidden to attend a post-test party at which pancakes were served and the movie Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events shown. He was told he had ruined everything for everyone else at the school and suspended for a week.

And some play it desperately. On March, 27, 2008, the Houston Chronicle reported that a middle school principal told a group of teachers that he would kill them and kill himself if the school's science scores did not improve. He was not, the teachers said, joking. "You don't know how ruthless I can be," he is alleged to have said. The incident is being investigated as a "terroristic threat."

At this point we should be asking HAVE WE GONE COLLECTIVELY MAD? . . . .
Have we, indeed. Have we, in fact, managed to create our own unique brand of grade school interrogation camps in the nation's 90,000 public schools? Is there a thread that, indeed, runs all the way from Gitmo through our schools and into our large flat screen TVs, where we can't seem to get enough of the hellish incarcerated life celebrated on the Prison Channel, MSNBC, or even by National Geographic over in hi-def.

So what to do? This week we saw three states, Minnesota, Arizona, and Virginia, trying to get Margaret Spellings' attention by threatening to forego federal aid to escape the NCLB madness. Minnesota faces giving up over $200 million, Arizona over $500 million, and Virginia over $600 million. That's serious disgruntlement.

But do these states believe that this Administration cares whether or not they refuse Title I dollars intended for the poor? These are the same folks who have been trying to disband Title I for the past 40 years. They couldn't care less about these threatened refusals of tax revenues aimed to provide assistance to the poor.

When you think about it, this approach makes little sense and has an entirely hollow ring to it. It would be the equivalent of France, Germany, and Spain threatening to withdraw from the UN because they disagreed with the Bush torture policy. Such empty threats might placate their enraged citizens, but it does nothing to change the policy.

Leaving behind our own bit of domestic madness that threatens the future of the American democratic republic is not going to happen from threats to refuse Title I funds by state legislators looking for political cover. State legislatures, governors, mayors, and school boards will have to say, Enough. No Mas! We are not going to give up our Title I money! And we are not going to continue to torture! In effect, it is time to do away with this shameful policy of incarceration and surveillance training billed as education!

1 comment:

  1. spot on as usual...neoliberals win when states turn down Title 1 money.

    sorry i missed you in NY, i did meet one of your colleagues who spoke very highly of you...