Wednesday, March 01, 2006

No Child Left Behind Leaves Children Behind

Contrary to what our embattled president is saying, No Child Left Behind is leaving plenty of children behind. Though I support Bush and believe him to be honorable, I cannot support No Child Left Behind, mainly because it reeks of politics, not an honest effort in improving education. In the 2000 presidential election, W was insistent that every child in America would get an adequate education. But in the political arena what else can a presidential candidate say? A candidate can’t say, “Well I believe that all children in America deserve an education, but let’s face the facts. Some of you have children that are just ill-equipped to receive a quality education, and should plan on careers in manual labor.” (Of course, this would be spun as bigotry for George Bush, but for Al Gore it might have been a gutsy statement by a gutsy guy who can level with the American people.)

With this new philosophy, test scores would be raised and bad schools and teachers would be held accountable. This makes for a great sound byte, but what are the unintended consequences? Here are a few: Power is taken out of the teacher’s hands and put into the hands of administrators. Teachers are made to teach for a test and children don’t receive all of the education that they need. The only thing that matters at the end of the day is the test scores. Many teachers go into teaching not for the glory or the money (though it is true the unions will never admit to this). Many teachers teach because they like working with children and want to influence their lives, but now, teachers can’t make individual decisions to teach to the child’s strengths.

Like all government institutions, the Education system is entirely too top-heavy. This is where misguided ideas like “No Child Left Behind” come from. Instead of firing leaders who are incompetent and in their position purely from being a “Yes-Man”, the system makes new positions and moves the up to the administrative offices. Principals are no longer the link between the School and the Superintendent of Schools. Now there is a whole litany of “administrators” in the middle that just stamp and pass the paper along.

So what is the solution? The first step is to cut the fat; any private industry that ran this inefficiently would be bankrupt. Red tape has taken over and the politicians will continue to throw money at the problem (solely to enhance their standing with the public) until the public is so outraged that something that might work is done. But like with Social Security, cutting the fat need not necessarily call for cuts first, but for more options with the same amount of money, like vouchers or tax credits.

The real dilemma here is that there is no place for parenting in the public educational philosophy in our country. Some parents could care less about their child’s education and only care that their child is out of the house between the hours of 7:00 and 3:00. But worse is the growing mindset that education is a right, and a state-promised one, not first and foremost the responsibility of the parent. Vouchers and the explicit recognition that choice should exist in education would be a step in placing the emphasis for education on parents before the state.

Would it be possible to go so far as to punish parents who don’t provide education for their children? Since it is illegal for a child not to be receiving an education, could parents be forced to provide education when their children can’t behave in school or keep up with the class through lack of trying? At the end of the year, the child that has been home-schooled still has to take the test and if that child doesn’t pass, the parents are fined. I want to applaud Bush for trying, but if he really wants to help education, he can start by giving teachers their power back in the classroom and allowing them to discipline, cutting the fat out of the education system, and most importantly, holding parents responsible for their children’s failings. Maybe then we will have an education system that leads the world.

This article was co-written by civilserviceman and relievedebtor

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