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NCLB Outrages

Bush's No Child Left Behind- the Grandgrind Method

Ohanian Comment: I don't usually have time for blogs, never mind comments on blogs, but this comment elicited many heartfelt responses, well worth reading.

Is George Miller listening? I doubt it. The man seems too self-assured that he knows best what our schools need. . . or what the Business Roundtable wants.

Comments from Annie: From my perspective, this description sums up the nightmare in our schools since NCLB: "No Child Left Behind is our 21st century form of beating education into a child who is filled with infinite possibilities for thought and creativity, the creativity that keeps a society moving ahead."

It seems easy enough to imagine that a resolution to this problem is simply to apply our objection, literally, and boycott school. But, sadly, that is not enough. This change in our schools is completely standardized; nationalized. The damages are encasing a generation. The schools have complied with NCLB policies by offering our students the opportunity to: "possess a few imbedded facts, a minimum level of literacy, and an incapacity for rational thinking. ." No matter that "NCLB doesn't work, unless you fudge the results," no matter that the students are "overworked and under-stimulated," no matter that "the heavy backpack filled with a million pounds of facts is the enemy to thought and a love of learning," our schools have changed, and the damages are pervasive.

The effects of NCLB reach farther than the classroom. It is changing teachers, teaching, students, changing the way a generation thinks and acts. There will be no aspect of our society untouched by these experiences. And my child, and yours, is caught between her own individual battle and her desire to be a part of her generation; she sees and understands, suffers the problems but doesn't want to hide from them either, she doesn't want to be isolated.

Our children are aware that, maybe now more than ever, school is much more than their "job." It is the place where they grow into their future, it is where we guide them, pass the torch to them by showing them who we are, what we value.It is where they assimilate their basic tools and attitudes. And out of our schools they will one day emerge to become the next generation. Will they be teachers? Will they be playwrights? Will they be dedicated to science, or business, or medicine, or diplomacy? Will they be leaders? Will they be inventive and analytical? Will they be ethical? Will they be confident and secure? Will our children be prepared for the situations we are creating for them? Will they understand from the education we have provided that we value them and want them to be strong and humane?

Some of our best policies and best ideas were born out of shameful and horrendous mistakes. The worst nightmares and atrocities still leave us with opportunities to do better. We have an opportunity to take these awful changes back and stop the growth of these policies. We have the potential to apologize and do better. We still have a chance to get it right for our children. We can show them that we value how they learn, and that we value what they learn. We can model our hope, and will, creativity, and humanity; and we can teach them about integrity. We can teach them about dedication. We can show them how to right a wrong, even if the perpetrator is a powerful force.

We can do this....

Please visit http://www.www.educatorroundtable.org to take a stand on NCLB!!!

by Sherman Yellen

Last week, I was taking the Lexington Avenue bus downtown in the late Manhattan afternoon for some Christmas shopping when I noticed a group of exhausted kids in the back of the bus, their faces pinched and drawn, carrying enormous backpacks filled with books and homework that might have killed a Tennessee mountain mule.
These kids were not returning home from a tin mine; they were coming home from school. As the father of two adult sons I haven't paid much attention to kids lately, but this group got me thinking, particularly now that I have a pre-school granddaughter whom I adore. Why do kids look so worn out and weary today? I spoke with a neighbor who has two small children in school, and she told me that their homework often kept them at their studies until ten or eleven at night, and that meant she had to be there for them, long after her own work day had ended. Then we started to discuss the "No Child Left Behind" program instituted by our Bush-brained government.

The stated intention of this program was to change the culture of America's schools by closing the achievement gap, producing report cards on progress so that even the underachieving students and schools in the worst neighborhoods met certain government standards. Because of the NCLB program, children must now pass new uniform tests with schools and teachers liable to be discredited if the students don't do well. This program was designed to provide every child with a basic education, certain fundamental reading and math skills, all in the hope of manufacturing a better American worker for the digital age. Whew! I sigh with relief that I am older and never had to face this program as a kid. Yes, I know that standardized tests have always been there. While growing up I had to endure the Regents Exams and the SAT's, but I also had teachers who were free to tailor their teaching to their student's needs, rewarding originality as well as high test scores. Like virtually all of the programs enacted by this administration NCLB doesn't work, unless you fudge the results, as the Bush administration does so well. It could work, if like George Bush, every child came from a wealthy family with important business and government connections that could assure preferential treatment for admission to the best colleges, and good jobs for those who possess a few imbedded facts, a minimum level of literacy, and an incapacity for rational thinking. .

What Bush's NCLB has done has been to impose an insupportable burden on the dangerously overcrowded and underfunded public school system in America, all in the name of helping the children of the poor, without actually helping to change the living conditions which so contribute to their failure rate. God save us all from such helpers. Worst of all it has imposed that greatest burden on all our beleaguered children. They are overworked and under-stimulated at the time of life when we learn more from discourse than by memorizing, when we learn from the pleasure that comes from exploring our own possibilities: practicing the arts, playing wild games (as distinguished from organized sports) and by not turning the world into a set of flash-card facts and winners and losers. A truly child-concerned program would include Civics courses so that every child knows how government works, thus nobody would ever vote for the likes of a George Bush again and have such educational programs imposed upon young lives. We might even produce the creative adults that we need for our future. Yes, there is factual information that a child must have to move forward in the world, but I don't for a moment believe that improved test scores will make for a better educated or more productive society. It is an Orwellian way to regulate minds, train children for robotic future jobs, rather than learning for the living of a better life. Does a hand-made education sound elitist? Utopian? Sure it does, but education is elitist and utopian or it is not education. It must be tailor made, one size cannot fit all, otherwise it is not education; it is regimentation. Our hope is to raise children with a love for learning because learning can be a joyful experience, right up there with sex and rap and iPods and computer games. Expensive? Undoubtedly. Hard to accomplish? Certainly. But there is no short-cut to the educated mind. Most of all there is no cheap quick fix for the problems facing our schools. It will cost for smaller class sizes and better paid, better prepared teachers, but nowhere near as much as a year in Bush's bottomless war. When we invade the public schools as we invaded Iraq with some Bushian fantasy we have those unintended consequences of educational casualties, creative children who are left behind. This learning by testing is the educational version of those missing WMDs, the product of a willful ignorance. You only need to read Charles Dickens "Hard Times" and you will see the NCLB method as practiced by Mr. Grandgrind, that horror of sadistic educational practice. It was Grandgrind who famously said, "Now what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts. Facts alone are wanted today."

We need provocative kids who probe and poke and question, debaters who become creators. Argument and writing are keys to any education - and the heavy backpack filled with a million pounds of facts is the enemy to thought and a love of learning. It seems evident that some of the most creative children are being left behind by this No Child Left Behind policy which fails to accommodate that most precious of childhood qualities - the imagination, something that often survives in spite of, rather than because of such programs. The 19th century Brits created a school model that guaranteed the misery of a childhood education. After attending an Eton or a Harrow a child had been so brutalized, and had learned to brutalize others, so that nothing in later life could seem quite as awful as early school years. Indeed, the survivors such as George Orwell often reminisced in memoirs about the beatings and the ice cold baths and the wretched food. Well, we have made some progress since those days. But No Child Left Behind is our 21st century form of beating education into a child who is filled with infinite possibilities for thought and creativity, the creativity that keeps a society moving ahead. It's time we show some of the mercy to children that we show to ourselves, not only for our children's sake but for our future as a country. We can start by getting rid of Mr. Bush's unintelligent design for education based upon the infamous Grandgrind method. And for God's sake lighten those backpacks.


As someone who works in the field of education, I can attest to the fact that Bush's program has stunted growth and created unrealistic and underfunded goals that reach all the way to higher education (where I work and see, every day, how BushCo budget slashing affects ALL students on EVERY level).

Having Bush determine educational goals and standards is as ridiculous and devastating as crony-installing Micheal Brown as head of FEMA.
Stupid is as stupid does.
God bless us all.

By: nc06 on December 26, 2006 at 01:07pm
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Sadly, with NCLB, Bush is getting exactly what he is after. He is getting more and more people who have no other choice but to 'volunteer' for military service. One of the central GOP tennants is to keep the poor in place to fill the military. They don't WANT the unfortunate to pull themselves up. Their goal is to keep them in the trenches. They must be impeached.

By: Noodle on December 26, 2006 at 01:10pm
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I took my kids out of public school exactly because of the problems you describe.

My daughter was in sixth grade and had increasingly large loads of material to wade through without guidance. She lost all enthusiasm for learning. To make matters worse math teaching was nonexistant. There was no time for basic practice with numbers and calculators were allowed in tests. They were testing them on advanced theoretical mathematical concepts that they couldn't possibly understand without the basic math practice that they were missing. Testing was nearly constant. The stress was ridiculous.

This was a "blue ribbon" school, considered one of the best public schools in the region.

Now, my nine year old son and twelve year old daughter are in a Friends school and learn how to write, how to explore and how to research and understand things for themselves. My son learns science during "creek walks" outdoors on the school premises. The teachers are not stressed and actually know my kids.

I wonder what would have happened if we didn't have the money.

By: rini on December 26, 2006 at 01:10pm
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It's "Gradgrind" not "Grandgrind," but okay, I get your point.

This admin has no stake in the improvement of public education. Our politicians send their kids to private schools, and create tax breaks for wealthy people, who also send their kids to private schools. All over the country, middle class parents are knocking themselves out working long hours to put their kids through private school because THAT is how bad our public eduation system is.

It needs a top-to-bottom overhaul, which it is not likely to get from a White House that THRIVES on a large body of poorly educated voters.

By: GingerJefferson on December 26, 2006 at 01:11pm
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Bush-brained - great new word

By: thgy on December 26, 2006 at 01:12pm
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I couldn't agree more. I still remember the excellent report on 60 Minutes about the so-called Texas miracle of "No Child Left Behind" when Bush was governor. Even then it was clearly based on fraud and misrepresentation from the very first. Such a shame; such a waste.

By: barryd on December 26, 2006 at 01:18pm
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And the really sad part is that so many parents are condoning this type of rote memorization of facts simply to "prove" that their child is "smarter" than the rest. They don't realize that this is a scheme by Corporate America and Bu$hCo to reduce future generations to "Good Little German Worker Bees". The poor children feel as if they will never be good enough. I know because I see it. Everyday. I am a teacher. Please help recue our children by signing this petition to end NCLB :

By: gms on December 26, 2006 at 01:26pm
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First, NCLB was NOT set up to help children. It was set up to make profits for educational testing service businesses, and other private companies, like the one Bush's brother is involved with. Also, to provide the failing grades for schools that would make educational vouchers, so loved by the GOP, attractive.I found it necessary to homeschool to provide that "tailor-made education" my child needed. Previously, I was one of those people who thought homeschooling was a right-wing plot to keep the women at home.NCLB has failed our kids, especially our special needs kids.

By: navymom on December 26, 2006 at 01:50pm
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Yellen is of course right. The real tragedy here is that the parents, the teachers, the local voters, apparently know what's wrong, but they can't do a thing about it.

Or can they? Is it that all it would take would be to just say no to those federal dollars?

Would it take the rich schools talking to the poor schools about ways to help out without bussing the kids across town?

But mostly, I think it's time for the teachers to forget the damn petitions and just stand up and say, "hell, no. we won't go."

By: neejerk on December 26, 2006 at 02:00pm
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I'm a veteran teacher in a nationally recognized blue ribbon school and I can tell you many horror stories about what has happened since NCLB. I agree with neejerk about teachers needing to stand up, but please also keep in mind that some of us are the primary breadwinners in our house and we need our jobs. I have a master's degree plus and I know a lot about how to educate many types of learners but it just doesn't matter any more. Our students are tested MONTHLY in both reading and math-and the scores are discussed in monthly meetings, all in an effort to see how we might keep our superior rating by raising test scores. All this testing takes away from instructional time and the constant discussion of the scores takes us away from planning appropriate lessons. No one cares that teaching is both an art AND a science and that I could easily give the administration reliable information about what my students need- I'm a professional and I know how to diagnose and treat all types of learning disabilities. But I can't reach the students I need to reach, because its all about the scores. I hope the public wakes up soon, because I am tired of hearing the administration spin NCLB as a "bipartisan success"...

By: jn123 on December 26, 2006 at 02:36pm
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The program would more appropriately be named, "NO CHILD LEFT UNDRUGGED".


By: truthcanhurt on December 26, 2006 at 02:45pm
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NCLB has failed our kids, especially our special needs kids.
By: navymom on December 26, 2006 at 01:50pm

As a recently resigned science teacher of 6 yrs I agree that all kids suffer, but from my experience the upper level kids(even though they have no problems with passing standardized tests) are hurt the most. I had to ignore challenging smarter students to address my time and teaching to those struggling students in jeopardy of not passing exams.
It was great to be able to help students but I really thought the idea was to help and teach all students and there was simply to many of them and to little of me. Not to mention the slap in the face I received when my paycheck came twice a month.

By: BobRooney on December 26, 2006 at 03:22pm
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no, i wouldn't propose putting your career at risk.

and i think i know that the "administration" is quite likely to be the bad guys or just the hardest to persuade.

what i am thinking of is heavy pressure by the parents, with the teachers in support, and whatever you can get from the local elected schoolboard. would take smarter people than me to bring it off...politically. but it shouldn't be impossible. and i am guessing the ultimate courage would just be the ability to say no to federal money.

By: neejerk on December 26, 2006 at 03:40pm
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The reward and motivation system of NCLB is broken. If Bush really believed in small government he would have had passed a very concise law that simply stated that all states must have in place a system in which school systems are measured by appropriate metrics and improvements plans are made from year to year. (Teachers will tell you that there are things you can measure about student progress to help you focus your teaching efforts).

BUT, this is not all on Bush now. Let's get Congress to rescind this monstrosity. Nancy Pelosi where are you?

By: hbr17 on December 26, 2006 at 04:00pm
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You're overlooking the bright side: Today's kids know more test-taking tricks than we ever dreamed off. Granted, it's not a useful skill outside of NCLB-land, but it's a skill, right? Keep this in mind when tempted to say that NCLB is a total failure!

By: mswings on December 26, 2006 at 04:28pm
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Oh cry me a river. Some kids end up holding part-time jobs in addition to their studies, farm kids run the tractor AND do their lessons, even if it's 'til midnight, life is hard, and then you get a REAL job. The blunt and bitter fact is, there's a lot of kids out there that don't get that much textbook exposure, and of course there's also the angle of needing to have schools modernize, so that they only carry one 'notebook', like, one with a keyboard on it, and a battery in it, like real professionals do in the workplace. If you're going to teach a kid to work, may as well START by placing the proper tools in their hands, and parents can go ahead and take care of that part of their kids' education, because a decent laptop is to be had for 800 bucks. Shop at the dollar store for shoes, buy the kid a computer. The earlier, the better. Computers can hold whole LIBRARIES full of information, and if the school sells the computers, specifically tailored for school work, and nailed shut in every way imaginable so that they can't be re-worked, turn it in at the end of the school year etc, just like real textbooks. Get 21st century with school. It's time...

By: realitytrumpsbull on December 26, 2006 at 04:39pm
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Hey, its a great policy! They don't leave one child behind, instead they leave every child behind! It's a brilliant step (in fact it's one cornerstone) in the Neocon plan to destroy America.

By: sculptor on December 26, 2006 at 05:13pm
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No Child Left Behind was the Neocon's method of breaking the Public School System. There are 40 ways for a school to fail and only one way to pass. Remember Mr. Norquist he wanted to drown the Public School System too.

By: cheeks on December 26, 2006 at 06:03pm
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The part I find most sinister with NCLB is is bassackwards approach toward correcting public schools. If anyone sees the logic, please explain it to me.

-A school fails to meet it's target objectives. (minimum test scores.
*Response--> With hold??? Federal funds!!?
+Don't the failing schools (especially in economically and socially depressed communities) need the funds MORE than successful ones? I teach in a "middleclass" neighborhood. I would not object when lion's share of the funds went to those schools so they could purchase more bunsen burners, band instruments, field trips, staff..etc.
-school continues to not improve.
*Response---> "reconstitute (Orwellean NEWS SPEAK for 'shut down')
+Dear Mr. President, smart doesn't come from the bricks. The reason some schools are successful is not mostly teachers, principals, or even a student's nature born aptitude. The MAIN reason behind successful schools is kick-ass-parents-who-don't-play-that-[insert dirty word of your choice]
Fact:Some schools in poor neighborhoods do quite well.
Fact: Some schools in "rich" neighborhoods resemble a postapocolypt movie.
MY ESTIMATION:Teachers know how to get the skills from book-to-brain. If a teacvher isn't it's mostly due to laziness, burn out, or malevolence.

By: mkhffpst on December 26, 2006 at 06:11pm
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The public school system is broken. Often irresponsible administrations fail to even try to educate our children. You could right a good sized book from all the examples where spending more money improves nothing. Our president is the ultimate example of our nations fall from grace as an enlightened society. The problem is us, we don't want science taught in our schools, we don't want civics taught and we certainly don't want critical thinking taught. Don't forget that we don't want our little darlings going to school with people of other races, other cultures and certainly not with people who have dangerous minds. We do not want to honor teaching like it was actually an important social function. So we are the problem. The Bush bunch hate working people and they particularly hate unions. Their goal is to kill the public school system thereby unburdening the well off from participating in the education of people that they only want to work like fools and say I love you to the President even if he does hate their working class parents. The ultimate candy for the Bush bunch is that NCLB leads direcly to the disenfranchisement of public schools and there by destroys the teachers unions. Can I get an A men. The more we argue about test and homework while ignoring the real motives the more success these nasty people will enjoy.

St Charles MO

By: Riverman on December 26, 2006 at 06:16pm
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— Sherman Yellen
Huffington Post


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