Now its time to muck up higher education
[NCLB] is like another Iraq war, with inadequate funding, naïve notions about the ease of success, and no clue about the eventual casualties.
By Marty Solomon
The federal government has now managed to destroy the morale of huge numbers of American teachers and administrators by demanding the impossible. It has narrowed the focus of K-12 education to taking high-stakes tests in math and English as all that is important, crowding out civics, art, music and abetting the obesity crisis in this country by trivializing the importance of exercise, recess and physical education. It has given itself until 2014 to finish off the wounded beast. It's like another Iraq war with inadequate funding, naïve notions about the ease of success and no clue about the eventual casualties. And after all of this massive misdirection of school focus and funding, it now appears that there is no convincing evidence that NCLB has been at all successful in improving student achievement. This is because NCLB is a solution searching for a problem, but neither the problem nor the solution is to be found in this awful law. The root problem is the average low academic achievement of minorities and the poor, the only justification for NCLB. But that problem is more to be found in the inadequate family environment than in the schools. It's like the man looking for his lost keys under the streetlight, not because he lost the keys there, but because the light was better there.
Rather than improving student achievement, there is evidence that NCLB is resulting in higher dropout rates. (See http://www.asu.edu/educ/epsl/EPRU/documents/EPSL-0509-105-EPRU.pdf)
Bit i f that is not enough, the Education Department has now set its sights on higher education. How amazing! Our higher education system is arguably the best in the world. We have spawned more Nobel Laureates than any other country and foreign students flock to our colleges and universities in search of the best post secondary education. The competition among higher educational institutions, the autonomy each has to innovate and stretch toward excellence and a relatively low degree of governmental interference has made this happen. It is ironic that the political philosophy of the present administration in Washington is to allow the free market to work, yet now wants to repair a system that's not broken. Not only is it not broken, but it is working quite well, thank you.
Nevertheless, that does not seem to worry the "fixers" in Washington. The Department of Education has appointed Charles Miller, a Texas architect of massive federal interference in the affairs of local school districts, to head up a national panel on higher education. This panel is focusing on, “affordability, access, accountability, global competitiveness and quality of teaching and research.”
You can see the handwriting on the wall. The federal government will likely want to penalize colleges with lower graduation rates which will encourage them to water down their standards. It will want to limit or somehow control tuition fees, meddle with admissions standards and surely try to impose some sort of graduation test to insure that graduation from college is harder but then insist, at the same time, that graduation rates increase. Miller even wants to know how much each college building is in use, perhaps to mandate occupancy standards for classrooms.
This is the sort of cross-purposes policies that result in federal tampering in delicate educational matters. How can a free-market administration be so traitorous to its principles? And how can people want to meddle with one of our most valuable and most successful institutions?
Please Ms. Spellings. Stay away from higher education. You will only muck it up.
Dr. Solomon is a retired University of Kentucky Professor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES