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Goals 2000: What's in a Name? and Why Should We Still Care About It?

Publication Date: 2011-08-05

More than a decade after President Bush the Elder and the nation's governors adopted goals for education for the year 2000, I asked, Whose good is being served? Now, in this era of Bush the Younger and NCLB, it's useful to take a look at what drove Goals 2000. The players haven't changed, and although the current administration is more ruthless about it, neither have the goals.


GEORGE BUSH the Elder called it America 2000. Bill Clinton calls it Goals 2000. I call it an alphabet soup of bureaucratic interference in the lives of children, and I say to hell with it: CEI, CIM, NAEP, NAGB, NASDC, NBPTS, NCEE, NCEST, NEGP, NESIC, NSP, NTFEEG, OBE, OERI, OLT, SCANS, STW, TFTP, TIMSS, TSWE, and more. Much, much more. I admit that NCEST is my favorite acronym. Not because I ever remember what it stands for, but because the way you pronounce it suggests the intertwined relationships of the fiscal opportunists and ideologues promoting Goals 2000.

Goals 2000 is, of course, the offspring of A Nation at Risk, a teacher- and school-bashing report representing not so much an evaluation of pedagogical practices and student achievement as a Zeitgeist of the early 1980s. I wonder what Goals 2000 says about our current ethos -- as we cheerfully, nay, avidly, look forward to a new age when leaders across the country will echo New York's commissioner of education, Richard Mills, in insisting that subjecting fourth-graders to a test they can't pass is a "good strategy." What can we say about an era that coins the term "raising the bar" to describe the way it thinks young children should be treated?

For the rest of the article, with charts showing where the conservatives and progressives stand on the issues--and on which issues they can unite to oppose government intrusion in the schoolhouse--go here


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