[back to part 8: The War on Some Drugs]
“Our Future is the Hands of our Students”
“High Stakes and Low Standards”
“High Standards, but Low Barriers”
“Repeal NCLB already!”
Our school systems rank toward the bottom of the list when compared with those of other industrialized countries. Sure, we may be able to brag about churning out all kinds of Nobel winners and innovators, but most of our students are graduating without the knowledge they should have, meaning that those Nobel prize winners stand on the other side of a gap too far from most of our other students. Our schools pass a lot of kids because our schools are too easy.
I’m an educator. I’m in an interesting position because, on the one hand, I’m saturated with fresh and incoming observations on the state of education and education theory, but I’m also a barely experienced, fresh teacher. There are things I know, and things I don’t know, and I will be wading into this world of teaching kids with all this riding on my book, with some answers of my own, but still a lot of questions.
Sometimes I don’t know about public schools; sometimes I’m very sure about them.
Sometimes I think I really like teacher’s unions; sometimes I wonder if they serve teachers more than students.
Sometimes I absolutely hate technology in the classroom; sometimes I love using it.
There’s one thing I do know: I hate—absolutely hate—No Child Left Behind. And the truth is that I think most people do, but we don’t want to change our system. It’s not the standards that are wrong, but the testing.
Most of us all know we hate NCLB, but either we don’t know why, or we’re too afraid to lose it because, after all, it’s called “No Child Left Behind”. I mean, how dare we leave a kid behind!
But that’s just the name of the act, not the spirit of it. Even so, we have to teach people, before they enter “the real world”, that you can’t expect the world to coddle you, and sometimes you will fall behind, and you have to work harder to catch up.
I would rather a student be held back a year than graduate high school with a diploma that doesn’t represent his/her preparedness. Of course, if I’m a good educator, I don’t just throw the content out there and fail the students who don’t get it. We’re supposed to pour as much as we can into helping our students make it. We need to differentiate instruction and spur internal motivation and tutor and replan and tear our butts off and work hours unrepresentative of the small paychecks we get, all to get these students a learnin’. But we can’t make them do work, we can’t control their home life, and we can’t be Superman. So sometimes students will not do as well as we expect. And as much as it pains us, it is better for us to realistically represent what they are prepared for. Leave No Child Unprepared.
Ron Paul understands the flaw in the U.S. Dept. of Education trying to fabricate a standard for all states and wants the power of education reform to be returned to states, communities, and families.
Imagine expecting the states of Connecticut and Mississippi to have the same test scores. This act really makes schools compete for government funding. “Once an institution is hooked on federal financing,” says Paul, “it’s virtually impossible to stop the bureaucratic regulations and mandates that routinely follow subsidies.” Of course, the same thing happens when schools are pressured to sell out to Cococola to put soft drink machines in their schools because they pay heavy dough, but then the school realizes that in their contract they’re not allowed to offer alternatives. Welcome to Coke High.
Ron Paul voted against ‘No Child Left Behind’. But it’s still here, because not enough people are voting along.
In an address to the nation during his 2000, George W. Bush claimed that “without testing, reform is a journey without a compass” and that “true competition is impossible”. Enter the No Child Left Behind Act, promoting academic excellence by providing funding to schools that performed well– in practice only a superficial excellence. Some have put it this way: “Now that we are meeting our current very low standards, I am insisting that we bring more and more students to meet this same low standard”. In essence, the strategery is to reward students for being in their seats. Schools are not given support for teaching students to write well, but for teaching students to write awkward responses that satisfy inconsistent grading criteria.
And as far as the funding goes, even though the federal government places this mandate on schools, it hasn’t paid up on it’s share of education costs. For most states, the cost of NCLB exceeds what the federal government even has. “Do what I tell you, but I won’t give you the resources, and I’m not obeying my own constitution.” This might explain why Republicans love NCLB so much too, because NCLB is to Iraq what testing corporations are to Halliburton. Since the government itself can’t afford to meet it’s own demands, we’re looking at a $25 billion industry. Companies that know nothing about education are selling testing and testing paraphernalia to poor schools for outrageous prices. For example, ever heard of Kaplan? For a “small sum” of $3,000, your teachers can take a half-day course on preparing your students for the SATs. If we’re going to keep NCLB, we can at least slash our military spending by about 80% to help pay for the schooling it requires.
And the test results determine school funding, teacher evaluation, and student promotion. The states may write their own requirements, but then they leave them up to testing corporations to interpret and facilitate. In many states, these standards are general and unspecific, and have no basis on which to test their reliability. When the scores turn up poor, we just lower the standard. And then we blame the teachers forced to teach the test and the students forced to take them. It’s ironic that the same tests designed to discover poor learning are assumed to encourage good learning. But NCLB has ended up functioning as an end, not a means to educational reform.
RSA Animate on industrialized education paradigms
Ron Paul intends to do away with the U.S. Department of Education. On the surface, this may seem like a horrible idea, as if to say, “make the government not care about education any more?” But this action that means is to say, “leave the federal government out of education and let each state handle it’s own education.” For example, Virginia has a board of education. She doesn’t need to answer to a larger board that is out of touch with her when she can just communicate with any of the 49 others on its own terms to help determine what is best for herself. He doesn’t want to dismantle public schools; he just wants to dismantle the Federal department created to mandate what public schools must do, which he believes is unConstitutional. “The smallest level of government possible best performs education,” says Paul. “Teachers, parents, and local community leaders should be making decisions about exactly how our children should be taught, not Washington bureaucrats.”
Now, I’m aware that Ron Paul believes that competition is healthy to schooling, and I’m not sure I resonate with that. I don’t think we should compete for resources for our children, or compete to turn out better students. Our communities should just have the goal of producing excellent children by the standards they want to hold to. Though Ron Paul is very much in favor of home schooling and private schools, this does not mean he wants to turn us over to a voucher system, or desire for companies to take over education. “Vouchers,” says Paul, “invite beaurocratic control of their usage and are unfairly distributed.” Vouchers, though taking power away from a government whose constitution didn’t grant it such power, also turn the other way and make education into a mere transaction. No vouchers, said Paul. Instead, he wants to give a tax credit for all educational expenses.
Barack Obama has had four years to repeal NCLB, but has not. How do I know he will in his next term? He complained about it, but never promised to get rid of it. However, I’ll give him some credit for his “waiver scheme” that allows schools to opt out of NCLB standards if they adopt other reform measures. Even though it’s using what are basically trade regulations for education reform, it’s still worth a sigh.
Mitt Romney believes we should cut back on teachers. Oh, and he fully supports NCLB. He just wants to rename it “A Chance for Every Child.” For every child to what? Ok, so Romney is against the federal intrusions of Common Core and Head Start. “I don’t subscribe to the idea of the federal government trying to push a Common Core on various states,” he said. But how does he overlook NCLB?
Ron Paul has said before that education is not a right. Controversial, I know. But in context I believe he meant that education is not a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. And he’s right. That power is given to the states. Let the states, on their own, make these decisions about their school systems.
I couldn’t find a good Ron Paul video on NCLB, so here’s one from his son Rand.
And what about teacher’s unions?
I’m fine with teacher’s unions, but I am disappointed by some of the attitudes and efforts of leaders of the NEA and AFT, and am still weary of the idea of striking. When teachers strike, they are depriving students of days of education. I can’t sit well with that. There are other methods of collective bargaining out there. Get the students in on it too if you have to.
Ron Paul is fine with unions (after all, labor has a right to organize just as much as businessmen and trustees), but he does not anyone to be forced to join a union. Besides, a lot of union dues are used to fund candidates who will promise them benefits and not give them, instead taxing them and spending much of the money on unfruitful endeavors. Labor unions can and have accomplished a great deal of equality and justice in this country, but if you are bullied by your own union, the very purpose of freedom is lost.
What about them all taking prayer out of schools?
Relax. Prayer is not banned in US public schools, and it’s not required either. Which is the way it should be. I mean, which denomination would you like to lead a prayer for your child? And if prayer of any kind was banned in my public school, I’d pray anyway. But I wouldn’t make a show of it. I’d go in the closet like Jesus told me to.
What about evolution in schools?
That’s an academic debate. Federal judges have no right to discuss it. As for states, why not let the students hear the different theories just like they do in other fields? They hear theories on authors, they look up different parties in civics, they look up different hypotheses about history. Why not do it with competing theories of origins? By the way, creation and evolution are not competing theories. Creation is an origins-of-the universe theory. Evolution is an origin-of-species theory. Regardless, children need to learn about both of these anyway because of the fact that they are prevalent alone. If a theory is popular, you have to study it to engage in it one day. And if you believe it’s a fact and that the facts back it up, what’s the harm and letting a student find it out for themselves? I disagree with Bill Nye: Belief in Creationism does not hamper your scientific achievement ( unless of course you get fired for believing in it).
Under these government mandates, schools are less responsible to parents and communities as institutions meant to facilitate knowledge and behavior shaping, and more responsible to the government as producers of social capital. And if every student graduates, then every student is qualified for every job, which means wages are lower because an education isn’t worth anything. So the poor stay poor, and stay in poor school systems and have to rely on the little government funding they receive to be preyed on by testing and education corporations. Big government, big corporations, big learning curve, small communities with dying local economies, unprepared children, angry parents and frustrated teachers. How is that a sound investment in education?
[on to part 10: Other issues]