Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Those who abhor NCLB may view its death by waiver as grounds for celebration. But that is overly optimistic. While Arne Duncan and company are quietly dumping some of NCLB's more preposterous requirements well before the law's 2014 drop-dead-date, they are not backing off from their more general stance of officiously telling state and local school people what to do.
Therein lies the problem. Federal school officials are neither wise enough, nor well-informed enough to take this stance. Confined to the Olympian heights of our nation's capital, these politicians and bureaucrats are so far removed from local realities that their persistent meddling provides little but comic relief. Nevertheless, like the party apparatchiks who crafted the former Soviet Union's ridiculously optimistic Five Year Plans, they persist in imposing still more "reforms."
Most of these new impositions will disintegrate into farce in the face of day-to-day realities. But before they do they will distract and dismay thousands of competent educators. The only good this federal tinkering is really likely to accomplish is keeping state school officials too busy to develop "reforms" of their own.
Meanwhile the best government money can buy will persist in allowing, even creating, the social and economic conditions that breed school failure like garbage breeds rats.
For a complimentary copy of a new hard-hitting education journal click here.
Friday, July 27, 2012
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
No Child Left Behind seems to be quietly fading away. Since Congress cannot, or will not, reform this reform, President Obama is killing it off with waivers. Do this and that and we'll let you sidetrack NCLB.
I, for one, am not surprised. I never took NCLB seriously. The very name of the act indicates a preposterous goal. Given the resources available to schools and all the non-school factors that impact educational success, achieving this goal would require altering the whole of American society.
No Child Left Behind indeed. Such a goal is plainly preposterous. How, then, was it arrived at? The late Paul Goodman noted that Americans are solemn about schooling but seldom serious. And there isn't a better example of that than this preposterously ambitious "reform."
Imagine applying a similarly ridiculous goal to something we take seriously — let's say professional baseball. No Team Left Behind. We all know that to be successful in baseball requires a delicate balance of defensive and offensive capabilities. We also know that putting such a balance together requires resources. To get a first-rate pitcher you either need a ton of money or you have to trade a first-rate something else. Trying to get a twenty game winner by trading your utility infielder would get you laughed out of the game. Baseball is serious business.
Politicians dabbling in school reform, on the other hand, settle for merely being solemn. They hatch plans so simplistic it is embarrassing to rebut them. Let's remember some previous solemn "educational reform"goals. For example, that the United States must lead the world in science and mathematics education by the turn of the century? Well here we are twelve years after that due date and nothing of that sort has happened. Instead, the whole imperative was quietly shelved in favor of leaving not one single child behind. Why? Because no one was seriously committed to gaining this preeminence to begin with. It was just political theater.
No Child Left Behind is like that. The enormously complex tasks required to even approach this ridiculously ambitious goal were never even laid out. Worse, the prodigious resources required were not even been brought up for serious discussion.
Is this an exaggeration? Consider that NCLB requires that all teachers be "highly qualified." But actually achieving that goal required major, and expensive, changes that none of these solemn politicians were prepared to back. So, by time of the Obama administration, this solemn goal had turned into a laughable farce as thousands of teacher interns, rank beginners mind you, were placed in that category. Beginners as "highly qualified." What could be less serious?
In the fulness of time NCLB will be gathering dust with all the many other solemn, but not serious, reforms of yesteryear. But because of the disruption it has spawned, this particular bit of political theater will have so disassembled public schooling that, like Humpty Dumpty, we will never be able to put it together again.
For a more detailed consideration see www.newfoundations.com/Clabaugh/CuttingEdge/Serious.html
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
What, specifically, is Professor Nieto prescribing for our schools? She advocates "Affirming Diversity." What does that imply? She says it, "... implies that cultural, linguistic, and other differences can and should be accepted, respected, and used as a basis for learning and teaching."
But the values of other cultures can be completely at odds with the very tolerance Nieto's prescription requires. Consider, for example, the dogmatism of the Wahhabi Islamic sect that dominates Saudi Arabia. These chaps divide the world into good guy true believers — those who subscribe to their version of the Sunni school of Islam, of course — and bad guy unbelievers whose beliefs must be suppressed or, preferably, eliminated.
Think this is an exaggeration? Well the Saudi's themselves don't think so. In 2004 a Saudi royal study group found that the kingdom's religious studies curriculum "encourages violence toward others, and misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the 'other.' Embarrassed when in enlightened company, Saudi education authorities promised to extirpate this intolerant dogmatism from their curriculum. But when the Washington Post analyzed recent Saudi religion texts they found them to be as hate filled and intolerant as ever.
How is this pertinent to Professor Nieto's recommendation that we affirm diversity? Well let's consider how enthusiastically she wants to affirm it by imagining her teaching in Saudi Arabia. And lets further imagine that as she does so she not only accepts and respects other religious points of view, but makes them a basis for learning and teaching. What do you think her fate would be? But before answering consider that in 2005, a Saudi teacher who merely suggested Jews and the New Testament could be viewed positively was fired, sentenced to 750 lashes and given a prison term. (He was eventually pardoned, but only following international protests.)
Since Professor Nieto doubled down on this Saudi teacher's minor league tolerance, it seems reasonable to conclude that she would suffer a worse fate. How enthusiastically would she accept and respect Saudi culture then?
There is also the matter of gender. Even though Professor Nieto is a woman, her prescription for America's schools blithely ignores the fact that many cultures are profoundly misogynistic. The consequences are female infanticide, genital mutilation, selling daughters into prostitution, wife beating, honor killings, leaving widows out of wills, excluding girls from school, counting a woman's court testimony as having half the value of a man's, and so forth. These and similar unenlightened behaviors, such as stoning homosexuals or hating whomever is on your tribe's shit list, all are rooted in culture. Yet Professor Nieto recommends that we not only unselectively accept and respect cultural differences, but use them as a basis for learning and teaching.
One can imagine the ludicrous consequences of such a policy. "Look class, Conner is spitting on Maureen and trying to kill her! That's because he is a Catholic from Ulster and Maureen's parents are Ulster Protestants. This must be unpleasant for Maureen, but she and the rest of us must accept and respect the fact that in Conner's culture she needs killing."
That this dreamy nonsense is considered an educational classic offers sad commentary on the state of the art.
For more on the limits of multiculturalism see: www.newfoundations.com/Clabaugh/CuttingEdge/Multiculturalism.html