No Child Left Without a Big Behind
Tell the children what to say, tell them to say it, repeat.
by Diana Hartman
It had been suggested that our government should test America's children to death, give them the option of crap food alongside already marginally nutritious food, and give states the option of (read: not the money for) providing physical education programs. Naysayers said it would strip teaching of creativity, result in test failures across the board, and fatten up the younguns.
Those who designed and supported No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the lunch menus said, "You're wrong." They promised a lot of money to support the new mandates, delivered on a bit, and the dismay has come to pass. America's children are getting fatter and they aren't NCLB-standards smart.
Those manning the front lines of children's ever-expanding waist lines say NCLB's demands and lack of promised funding have drained schools of the resources they need to provide physical education and schedule physical activity. Additionally, the older a student gets, the less likely they are to be provided with a school-sponsored physical activity.
Physical education is not the only program to suffer. Resources have been pulled from social studies, science, and the arts so reading and math programs have all the resources they need to keep in line with the law. "What our data is showing is that there is a cut [in time devoted to physical education], it just isn't as large as academic subjects," said Center on Public Education (CPE) president Jack Jennings.
Warm Fuzzies for everyone, it's on Jack.
Seeming improvements mask the ongoing struggle of school lunch programs to keep up with guidelines without enough funding and they are having a difficult time providing nutritious foods even when the money is available. The reality is that the food industry is incapable of changing as fast as that group wanted things done, said Ben Matthews, director of school support at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. It takes the food industry a minimum of one year but sometimes two to three years to change processes.
Christina Dodd, child nutrition director at Henderson County, North Carolina Schools suggests a menu of hamburgers, salads, fruits, various vegetables, and side items constitutes having served a balanced meal. Offered is not the same as served, Ms Dodd. Many school nutrition directors, and parents, believe that offering children both healthy and unhealthy options will prompt them to make the healthier choice. When they don't, they cite the child's decision to eat poorly rather than take responsibility for having provided a poor choice as an option. "Well," Dodd says, "a lot of students only want to eat the hamburger.
No Child Left Without a Big Behind
Under the guise of approaching a solution, some critics seem willing to become part of the problem. Instead of suggesting a different approach to academic testing, Russell Pate, a professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina, suggests adding physical education to the list of tests. Would doing so translate into fitter kids? It's not likely, given how academics are delivered under NCLB.
Kids are being taught to pass tests by way of a strict academic curriculum, and they're no smarter for it. In Old School terms, this is known as rote learning tell the children what to say, tell them to say it, repeat. Again. Physical fitness would no doubt suffer under the same system the kids might be a little trimmer, but still not meet standards, and at no point will they know why or how change in their bodies occurred. It must be conceded that this would be better than what many states offer no physical education program whatsoever.
No Child Whose Parents Are Rich Left Behind
"I think you have to look at many other factors when you look at obesity," Chad Colby, deputy press secretary for the Department of Education, defended. "To put the blame on a program (NCLB) that requires kids to read and do math at grade level is absurd. It tends to be an excuse, but it is a poor one."
The positive effect of physical activity on the brain's ability to read and calculate goes unaddressed by NCLB supporters; instead, many contend there is the option of extracurricular activity. Jacalyn Lund, president of National Association for Sport and Physical Education, countered with the reality of every child's parents not having the money to provide for after-school activities. This, too, went unaddressed by NCLB supporters.
No Child Will Escape
NCLB was named the way it was for one reason: any detractors could immediately be called on the carpet with "What kind of parent/teacher/person are you that you would leave a child behind? Sniffle, whimper, whine." The name has absolutely nothing to do with the program. It wasn't named more accurately so as to deflect the obvious intent of the program batter children with the only information we're willing to give them.
If you can't dazzle them with bullshit, pull their funding. The fail-safe within NCLB is the conditions under which it will provide and reduce monies. By setting the standard only as high as those achieved by the best performing schools, NCLB insured continued funding of these schools and does now deflect blame for underfunding the most needy schools by citing their failure to meet the standards. This is government-sanctioned survival of the fittest a curiously hypocritical approach for this administration to take.
It's no coincidence that rote learning came into law on the heels of evolution coming into curricular question across the nation. Color me paranoid (but you'll have a hard time coloring me with anything from a government funded public school art education program.) The passing of NCLB into law is the perfect safety net for "critical evaluation" and its incestuous cousins, creationism and intelligent design.
Bush and his band of NCLB'ers know its better to have a fat, dumb, and happy (read: patriotic) population than it is to have an educated mob that could catch you in a dead run. He and his have fooled many into thinking repetition and memorization is the same thing as learning; that heart-stopping trans fat, being worse than mere heart-clogging saturated fat, means it's okay to make the latter part of the school menu; and that tattooing a flag on your flab is a grand ole thing.
The U.S. Department of Education insists that almost all of the nation's public elementary schools had a physical education program of some kind in 2005. This would directly contradict the National Association for Sport and Physical Education's (NAPSE) findings, except that one of the things NAPSE found was that twelve states offered students the opportunity to earn credits through online courses in physical education. This is tantamount to teaching a cooking class in a refrigerator. Look children, see all the ingredients. You can heat things up if you just apply yourself.
If this is how the U.S. Department of Education defines "some kind," then hey, they got us there. He who defines the terms, and all that. More states than made up the original colonies require no physical education at all for elementary and middle school children.
It's easier now to see how a promise of something can result in nothing. Hows that road to hell coming along, Mr President?
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES