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We're nearing the lame-duck end of the Bush Administration and it has been one God-awful march through ineffectiveness (9/11, Katrina, health care), cronyism (Katrina, NCLB, Iraq contracting, USA gate), incompetence (everything, especially Iraq), illegality (the Plame affair, wiretapping, USA gate, torture), arrogance (where will it end?), and sheer stupidity (where do we start?).  Has the government of the United States ever been worse?

Reading the recent news on Iraq, and even in-depth analysis like that done recently on Kanan Makiya in the NYT, and watching as NCLB comes up for renewal, it really gives me pause to connect the dots.

Realize this:  Bush's only so-called success story from two terms in office, No Child Left Behind, is up for renewal right now, and none other than the Democratic majority holds its fate in their hands.

Frankly, this is not a hard call.  

What are we supposed to believe?  

That all of the Bush Administration's other policies--on health care, on the environment, on income equality, on energy, on Iraq, on domestic surveillance, on veteran's issues, on globalization, on climate change--all of those policies are off-the-charts negative for average people in America, in terms of providing possibility and hope for the future.  

That, in fact, Bush and his administration is synonymous with giving the corporate agenda in America a free-hand and free-reign over the interests of America's common citizens, to the detriment of our common security, future and way of life.

But, somehow, by some stroke of divine providence or dumb luck, are we really supposed to believe that Bush has found the magic formula for reforming and improving public education?  That No Child Left Behind, despite being rejected as anti-thetical to quality education by strong majorities of students, parents and teachers who work with it every day, is somehow a step forward for America and her out of balance democracy?

I know.  Most Kossacks "get" how incredibly stupid, gullible and destructive are the politicians who support NCLB, including some big-name Dems, like George Miller and Ted Kennedy, but just for a moment hold NCLB in the same frame of mind as Iraq.

You see, each policy was crafted by the same Congress in 2001-2002, crazed by 9/11 fervor--cojones gone wild--seeking to straighten the world out once and for all and bend everyone to the "will" of America.  

The same mind-set that believed that it could "solve" the long-standing dilemma of the Middle East by invading and occupying a distant nation whose culture, religion and language were unfamiliar and alien to any understanding of the people who were in charge of "fixing" that country, produced a bill that was going to "fix" once and for all the education of every child in America.  Despite having no background, familiarity or experience in education.

And guess what?  If the current professionals doing the work in America's public schools couldn't get the job done, as demanded by the imposed timeline, the schools were going to be "taken over" by state governments across the land.

"Taken over".  Ring a bell?  (Iraq.  Justice Department. Supreme Court.)

Question:  Why does "taking over" an institutional entity constitute a rationale, effective and credible "plan" for success?  Isn't that exactly what we thought would work in Iraq?  What part of "taking over" delineates how it is will be done, who is going to accomplish what, and why there is any reasonable expectation that things will be better?

NCLB was hailed as a "breakthrough" because it mandated that by 2014, every child in America was going to read at "grade level."   While on the surface noble, the truth is that "grade level" is determined by a statistical average of standardized test scores between the 30th and 70th percentile.  

In other words, as great as it sounds that every child reads and does math at "grade level", it is, in fact, an arbitrary measure gleaned from test scores of a group of students.  It has never happened, ever, in any country, in any district, in any school, anywhere in the world--because in fact, in terms of statistics, you can't force every kid to land between the 30th and 70th percentile or you would no longer have a valid and reliable test, let alone survive heads exploding of rational people realizing that anyone could even believe this was an actual, credible "policy" of people elected to federal office.

So think about this:  A bunch of politicians in Washington give Bush the green light to invade a country under the fallacy that he will be able to ... what?, find WMDs?, rid the world of Saddam?, create a democracy in the heart of the Middle East?, create a stable political ally?, protect Israel?--I no longer can even discern the rationale for the Iraq occupation, other than that now the fear of leaving Iraq outweighs the death and destruction of staying there.  But, they did give him the green light.

Let's call that policy a massive and potentially unlimited failure.

And, in looking at NCLB, a policy that was misguided and doomed by its very premise, are we now supposed to believe that it can be "fixed", "tweaked", "improved"--that Democrats should step forward and make this their own vision for improved public education, while handing the keys to "improve" education to the Bush administration.  Why?  What's the rationale?  Nothing about it was true to start with.

I work in Minnesota, one of the jewels of the K-12 system:  leading the country in graduation rate, ACT scores and in the top five in the recently released NAEP scores.  We now have over one third of our public schools labeled as failing--723 Minnesota schools are called "failures" by an administration that has elevated failure to an art form!  Whose Education Head, Maggie Spellings, was not even an educator (oh, she was a substitute teacher for awhile) until she came to prominence riding the "abstinence" wave in Texas.

This is not a hard call.

Like Iraq, they have drawn a maximalist "we can do anything" line in the sand and dared anyone to say it cannot be done--so they can be vilified and derided as lacking leadership, as not being bold or patriotic enough. Meanwhile, at the rotten core of the policy is nothing but a cynical grab for power and profit.  

Let me be plain:  We are talking about demonizing public education for the sole purpose of giving public dollars to private providers--all in the hope that education will somehow improve.  Like Iraq. With no plan.  With no policy.  With no research.

What Kossacks and American everywhere need to understand about NCLB is that it is not a plan for improving our schools. If it was, we would see funding, resources and ideas being poured into teaching and innovative ideas and structures. It is not about policy.  If it were, we would see new schools, new methods, new capacities springing up around the country.

NCLB, like Iraq, is about ideology, as Jim Cummins has so eloquently spoken to.  And in this case, instead of screwing up a country half-way around the globe, we are screwing up our own kids and our own future right here at home.

I do not dismiss the disaster that is Iraq;  my heart bleeds every morning knowing that our finest are in another land killing, maiming and intimidating others under our flag, under our name, believing in the cause of democracy--while ignorant of the futility of imperialism.  The failure of this is enormous, enduring and inevitable, and by now, is well understood, at home, and particularly abroad.

But, what is less well understood is how the same exact mind-set, a mind-set which believes it can control, dominate and bend to its will, an entire generation of people, is still operational here in America.

By all intents and purposes, the same people, particularly George Miller and Ted Kennedy, are ready to go ahead and "improve" NCLB, keeping in place the statistically impossible "goals" of 100% achievement by 2014, ensuring that corporate testing of our schools will not only continue, but increase--all the while undermining public confidence and support for what has been an historically effective, democratic and dependably civic institution.

I will not speak to the considerable damage being done by endless standardized testing, to our kids, to our best educators, to the very ideal of public education.  I've already done that here, hereand here as have many others.  It has been diaried ad nauseum.  Research proves that you cannot test your way to excellence.  Even a former Bush Administration flack, Michael Petrilli, has spoken to the fact that you can choose high standards or you can choose a minimum standard, but that you can't have them both.

I only wish to point out that the maximalist-hegemonist fantasy that was the Iraq invasion/occupation is of a single cloth with the same fantasy that brought us NCLB.  And, in both cases, the ulterior motives--in Iraq, oil, profit and power, and with NCLB, profit, privatization and power--are the real factors driving policy.

Which leads to the ultimate question:  What is driving Democrats, like Miller and Kennedy, to support such a devestatingly stupid and anti-democratic policy?  

I really want to know what Kossacks believe is the underlying rationale, stated or not, for Democrats to renew No Child Left Behind--given its undeniably destructive record for public schools in general and poor people in particular?

Let's leave Bush out of this for the moment.  

Why are Democrats even entertaining the fantasy of NCLB as something that is good for our country?  Why?  

This is my party. Can anyone defend them?  Anyone?

Why are they doing it?  The exact same road as Iraq.  And not a question being raised.  Why?

Please, help me understand.

Originally posted to Mi Corazon on Tue Oct 09, 2007 at 04:08 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Outstanding analysis. (6+ / 0-)

    "There must be more to life than having everything" -Maurice Sendak

    by lilypew on Tue Oct 09, 2007 at 04:13:19 AM PDT

  •  Beat me to the tip jar (16+ / 0-)

    But, I'll take any mojo I can get.

    I'm so mad, I can't sleep in the morning anymore.

    Five more years of increasing standardized tests?

    Over my dead body.

    Help new teachers to grow and love their work at

    by Mi Corazon on Tue Oct 09, 2007 at 04:16:55 AM PDT

  •  progressive voices (6+ / 0-)

    I am finally admitting I'm too progressive to ever fit into this current education scam.  Follow the money and see how it tracks along with the so-called "ideology" of the NCLB acolytes.  Figuratively speaking, this makes me want to break windows, but when the window company will be the only one who cheers, it's just too bad.

    To me, there is only one ideology and countless variations of it:  love, fairness, goodwill, peace, brotherhood, sisterhood, reaching out, respecting the dignity of others, truth, justice, and believing that those things really are the American way.

    In my education-speak, that ideology articulates as Whole Language philosophy, which has been as villified as socialism.  Not once has there been a similar articulation of the current educational discourse in terms of a coherent underlying philosophy.  That's because there is no underlying philosophy, just a vague notion of enterpreneurial hubris.

    No wonder the middle school up the road had to close because the kids were beating up the strange teachers who have taken it over by NCLB mandate.

    An amendment: Do not allow a single US corporation to do oil business in Iraq until a complete withdrawal of American forces takes place.

    by jcrit on Tue Oct 09, 2007 at 04:32:47 AM PDT

  •  I am off to school (3+ / 0-)

    where walls are covered by posters which are mandated by a program with solutions to the devastation caused by teachers who earned only measly masters degrees in education ergot are the problem with our system.
    I'll be late if I don't stop now.
    Have a good day out there!!

    "There must be more to life than having everything" -Maurice Sendak

    by lilypew on Tue Oct 09, 2007 at 04:42:38 AM PDT

  •  the combination of Iraq and NCLB: (5+ / 0-)

    in my diary this morning, which is about an important book on education and is entitled If you only have time for one book on education . . .

    I make a quote from Linda Darling-Hammond which is relevant to that combination:

    For the cost of one percent of the Bush administration’s tax cuts in 2003, or the equivalent of one week’s combat costs during the war in Iraq, we could provide top-quality preparation for more than one hundred and fifty thousand new teachers to teach in high-need schools and mentor all of the new teachers who are hired over the next five years. With just a bit of focus and a purposeful plan, we could ensure that all students in the United States are taught by highly-qualified teachers within the next five years. Now that would be real accountability to children and their parents.


    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Tue Oct 09, 2007 at 04:50:41 AM PDT

  •  Oh, and diary happily recommended - peace. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chun Yang, jcrit, JohnB47

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Tue Oct 09, 2007 at 04:51:05 AM PDT

  •  Thanks T.K. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chun Yang, JohnB47

    We are getting close to ratifying a Bush Administration policy that is every bit as cynical, destructive and anti-progressive as was the war resolution on Iraq.

    Do we really have an opposition party in the United States?

    Help new teachers to grow and love their work at

    by Mi Corazon on Tue Oct 09, 2007 at 04:55:07 AM PDT

  •  get rid of empty slogan program titles (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Reino, Mi Corazon, Chun Yang, Newzie

    No child left behind, my ass. "But its such a worthy goal." Yeah, so why does the president's little brother's company get hundreds of millions in government money for his computerized reading program? Just a conincidence?
    If in fact no children are being left behind it is because that the country has been put on hold and is no longer progressing. How about offering unlimited possibilities to those who would excell? Or, setting goals to challenge the future. But I guess with flat earth types that doesn't have as much zing.
    Great diary Mi Corazan, your heart's in a very good place.

  •  my little boy and nclb (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My son entered third grade this year so he is already experiencing the testing and bad teaching. I was somewhat prepared from reading and your presentations at Yearkly Kos, but my husband was shocked and appalled so that we will meet with our son's teacher today.

    Math is being taught in a way that left our son hiding behind the sofa in tears over his homework. My son is very bright, and in second grade was doing third grade math - multiplication and division. Now he is having a lot of new terms dumped on him(does a third grader need to understand mean, mode, median before he can divide properly?)And have all these terms introduced at once?

    Because we have means and some education of our own(my husband has an engineering degree and Ph.D. in Sociology,both from Brown,so he knows math)we have ordered books teaching math in the Singapore style, since they seem to lead in teaching math skills.

    And yes, I was told by our son's teacher that she has to be teaching the same thing on the same day as the other classes, no matter what her kids need. Making education so formalized and restricted that a "bank clerk" could come in and run the class (as Linda Perlstein described in her book "Testing")just makes me want to be sick. And I LIKE my son's teacher and the principal(who is reading my copy of "Testing").

    In the mean time, at my son's school, I constantly run into teachers and staff who compliment my son's high intelligence. He is taking the academically gifted programs they have available. And my husband is hopping mad over the teaching and I am going to be homeschooling part-time to overcome what he misses.

    It is going to be a long year. Be strong, teachers.

    Attention Republicans: This WILL be on your permanent record.

    by Chun Yang on Tue Oct 09, 2007 at 05:19:33 AM PDT

  •  Right On (0+ / 0-)

    I'm always asking the same questions. Why do many Democrats support torture? Why do many Democrats support warrantless wiretaps? Why do many Democrats think Bush should decide how many troops we have in Iraq? Why do many Democrats want to keep the health insurance companies in business?

    As a teacher, 'Why do Democrats support NCLB' is also on that list.

    I also wish I had some answers.

    Nice diary.

    The Iraq War: End It, Don't Mend It

    by Reino on Tue Oct 09, 2007 at 06:06:23 AM PDT

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