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[Susan notes: We mustn't let right-wing hate venom prevent us from doing what Jerry Mintz's letter does: pointing out the harsh reality of Obama/Duncan education policy.]

Published in Newsday

To the editor

The message from President Obama as published in todayâs Newsday is both ironic and self contradictory. He starts out by saying that every student has something they are good at and that they have a responsibility to pursue that. This sounds like he understands the learner-centered approach that innovative educators have found to work in a very powerful way. It implies that he understands that children are natural learners.

But then he immediately segues into the opposite paradigm, one that assumes that children are naturally lazy and need to be forced to learn. He refers to homework and doing what the teacher says to do and what HE expects.

He canât have it both ways. But I already discovered the problem earlier this year at the Education Writers Association Conference when I asked newly appointed Education Secretary, Arnie Duncan, if the Obama administration would get rid of No Child Left Behind. I told him that alternative educators feel that it completely interferes with a learner-centered approach. After hemming and hawing he finally said, in an almost stream of consciousness, "Well, the name 'No Child Left Behind' has become pretty toxic. Weâll probably change the name!"

It was a devastating admission but was not covered, that I know of, by any of the hundreds of reporters in the room. One reporter from the Boston Globe did congratulate me on getting him to admit his planned subterfuge.

And they DID, in fact, change the name but keep NCLB. What is it about the âRace to the Topâ initiative that encourages students to follow their own dreams and develop their special talents? Nothing! It is not encouraging of an individualized, personalized approach. It encourages standardization and âteach to the test.â

If President Obama and his administration really believe that students should pursue and develop what they are good at, they would end NCLB and RTTT and find ways to give students and their schools and teachers the resources they need to truly follow their interests, their talents and their dreams.

Jerry Mintz is the director of Alternative Education Resource Organization. (AERO)

Jerry Mintz

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