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Thirteen Ways of Looking at No Child Left Behind

Posted: 2007-10-10

Apologies to Wallace Stevens who must be rolling in his grave.


Among 6,346 Congressional mandates,

The only puzzling one

Was imperatives about all children.


I was of three minds,

Like a desk

On which there are three pencils.


The Learning sat in the publishing conglomerate mist

It was a small part of The Program.


A child and a teacher

Are One.

A child, and a teacher and Learning

Are One.


I do not know which to prefer

The beauty of All Children

Or the beauty of Grade Level Mastery,

The student reaching proficiency

Or just after.


Proficiency filled the huge whiteboard

With barbaric blips.

The shadow the student

Crossed it, to and fro.

The mood

Traced in the shadow

An indecipherable cause.


O thin publishers of tests,

Why do you imagine Proficiency?

Do you not see how learning

Lurks in the classrooms

Of the teachers despite you?


I know noble accents

And lucid, inescapable rhythms:

But I know, too,

That the student is enmeshed

In what I know.


When any learning is acquired

It marks the edge

Of one of many circles.


At the thought of students

Mastering Learning,

Only the bawds of Congress

Would cry out in ecstasy

Or corporate complicity.


He walked past classrooms

Without looking.

Once, a fear pierced him,

When he mistook

The shadow of his equipage

For Learning.


Times are changing

Learning must be mastered.

Teachers too.


When it is proficieny time

And testing time

And ever preparing to test,

Learning's meaning sits

With the Business Roundtable.

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