Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Law of Unintended Consequences?

Or are things working with No Child Left Behind EXACTLY as intended?

NCLB's Bright Flight

I have to ask - is this type of story genuinely a surprise to anyone, let alone the politically-in-the-know folks at the Washington Post? Every time I listen to a defender of the NCLB system (and its red-headed stepchild, vouchers) insist that NCLB is improving the life chances of all those poor, Black and Brown children because Schools are Now Accountable TM I want to scream. As Malcolm said, in another context: You NCLB supporters have been had. You've been took.

What type of cognitive dissonance does it take to contend in the same breath that that it benefits our children to "Make Schools Accountable" for failing to educate them by siphoning off the quality students, quality teachers and quality funding that are an inherent part of a quality school?

How can a school system be held accountable to parents who don't even know how to game the system in the first place because they have no idea what their rights are? After all, if they *did* know how to game the system, and if they had the resources to game it, their kids were gone before NCLB even came along???? How can a school system be held accountable to students who don't even know what they are entitled to, education wise? And how can they even find out, when those who are most in the know, and most able to share knowledge, are too busy fleeing their "failing schools" (even if most students in an NCLB "failing school" actually are doing just fine) to worry about somebody else's child? And how can anyone be held accountable for not effectuating what would be, without money and time that simply does not exist in most overcrowded, underfunded, physically deteriorating and damned-near prison-like urban schools, nothing short of a miracle?

I cannot believe how most politicians in this country allowed themselves to get played with this nonsense. Setting aside the obvious -- that anything that Dubbya or a Dubbya minion proposes is not designed to help any but those who might someday be part of his "base", which does not include the urban poor -- NCLB is the educational equivalent of the "Healthy Forests Initiative". A particularly destructive attack on a foundational pillar of our society, tarted up in real-life Newspeak for those who don't investigate but simply absorb what they are told. A paean to the mantra "I Got Mine, Get Yours", dressed up for consumption in a beautiful box called "helping those who need our help".

It doesn't take rocket science to figure out that When the best students with the most active parents are given public license to flee and take their public educational funds with them, it will reinforce, consolidate and centralize a culture of underqualification. This type of consolidation has been shown over and over in the housing context lead to destructive results, to ghettoization, to a permanent underclass. Make no mistake - NCLB may indeed "help" the few who can now take advantage of an ability to flee that was previously denied to them for financial reasons. But for the majority who either cannot or choose not to abandon their communities, NCLB increasingly ensures that what is left for those left behind are the crumbs and leavings, the detritus, of the quality public education that all children are supposedly guaranteed. Just enough education to ensure their diminished life chances for a future in which they live and die as followers, rather than leaders, without extraordinary luck.

The cynic in me that looks at the arrogant reshaping of American society that the Bush Administration has engaged in with fervor since 2001 can't help but believe that the "unexpected consequences" of NCLB written about in today's Washington Post are, in fact, merely evidence that NCLB as Bush's rabid-right brain trust envisioned is Working as Intended.TM. It is hard not to conclude that this is deliberate, given how much the Right has publicly admitted that it despises publicly-funded education, a backbone of America that was born during Reconstruction and intended, at least originally, to ensure access by the financially downtrodden -- back then, emancipated slaves -- to the education they needed to succeed.

NCLB may well be the ultimate Stealth Bomber of the Rabid Right. It seems well on its way to ultimately destroying public education as we know it, with the consequence that knowledge and power will again rest in the moneyed classes - to the detriment of those supposedly being helped by it.

I wonder if Teddy Kennedy feels played, right about now.

I myself am NOT looking forward to seeing the test scores in Fairfax County public schools in a few years. Assuming that they do not pull off yet another Texas Miracle TMand deliberately disappear thousands of failing and borderline children from their enrollment lists. After all, anyone who knows anything about the Texas Miracle knows full well that the dramatic improvement in mandatory test scores following Bush's implementation of mini-NCLB in Texas was achieved only because of the Texas Educational Authority's corrupt and amoral willingness to encourage Texas students in poor and minority areas to drop out of school rather than face a mandatory test date and "fail". Despite the strident warnings from those in the know who pleaded with our congresspersons to reject NCLB unless dramatic increases in education funding accompanied it, our nation's public schools appear to be queuing up for the same miraculous process under NCLB that Texas faced under its predecessor system.

If Bush's so-called Miracle of NCLB isn't in fact increasingly leading to Children Being Left Behind, I don't know what is.


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