Dear Senator Kennedy , Why Don't You Believe in America?
Ohanian Comment: Ask yourself why liberal venues refused to post this opinion piece but TownHall.com, the most conservative blog on the planet, did post it.
In the past, Philip's work has frequently found a home among progressive sites. What are they afraid of now?
Peter Henry, longtime teacher and member of Educator Roundtable, offers a great soundbite in response to this opinion piece, It's ego above evidence for Teddy.
We can add to the pattern:
It's big business above basics for Teddy.
It's corporatism about conscience for Teddy.
It's jingoism above justice for Teddy.
And so on.
I don't think there is any chance of getting Kennedy to admit error, but we need to keep refuting those errors.
Thank you, Philip.
by Philip Kovacs
Dear Senator Kennedy,
Your op/ed in the Washington Post indicates a serious misreading of what is going on in America's classrooms. While your goal of helping all children is noble, the way you have chosen to go about doing so harms children of all races and socio-economic levels. For example, over the past five years dropouts have increased and segregation approaches pre-1954 levels.
Testing will not solve these problems.
You argue that "before NCLB, few states had standards, assessments, and accountability procedures." This is simply not true. As everyone who has ever been to public school knows, good teachers have all three. If public schools had not been doing an excellent job teaching and assessing, this country would not be the sole, global super-power.
Do not, I repeat DO NOT, mention China or India.
Should you do so, you will sound as foolish as the individuals who, in the 1983 report "A Nation at Risk," claimed we would be speaking German or Japanese if we did not radically change our schools. To be clear, we did not radically change our schools. Schools look and feel painfully similar to how they felt in 1983; we are just spending billions more on tests and good teachers are leaving the profession earlier.
Parenthetically, for those of you who are interested, it was the authors of "A Nation at Risk" who convinced Reagan NOT to shut down the Department of EducationÃ¢€Â¦
Senator Kennedy, you argue that we need to "strengthen our academic standards and assessment methods so that we can compete in the global economy." I am all for competing in the global economy, but that economy is one driven by innovation, risk taking, and creative problem solving. In essence, the masters of the global economy will be those who hone their unique gifts and integrate them into a complex web of production, services, and transformative ideas.
Standardizing the schooling of Americans will not, CANNOT, prepare students for such an economy. Are we to believe that forcing all children to think the same things, the same way, at the same time, is going to lead to a workforce capable of the innovation, problem solving, and risk taking required by economies across the globe? The curriculum we have in place now, the one reinforced by NCLB, will (at best) produce workers capable of doing the jobs we now offshore.
You write that "local control means nothing without the resources for improvement." This we certainly agree on, and again it sounds as if you are channeling Reagan. But it is also where we permanently part ways. The A-Plus legislation that you belittle requires accountability and responsibility, but, unlike NCLB, the legislation favors giving communities the opportunity to implement forms of accountability, responsibility, and transparency that fall outside of the narrow, and simple, measures enforced by NCLB.
If you believed in communities, and if you believed in the power of democracy, you would clearly see that school systems around the country have the ability, the people, and the will (but not, in many cases, the money) to help all children develop into critical, caring, persistent, engaged, and reflective adults. Our present trajectory, the one you favor keeping us on, guarantees a nation of "Yes-Men," individuals capable of jumping through higher hoops, but not capable of asking why they should be jumping in the first place, or, for that matter, designing better hoops.
If you want children to stay in school, if you want a challenging type of schooling, if you really care about this country's position in the global marketplace, and if you care about that noble dream called democracy, then you must empower communities. Many Americans see education as a civil rights issue, and rightly so. If that is the case, it is time for champions of civil rights to free students, teachers, and communities from federal constraints and to support us as we pursue multiple paths of learning.
The A-Plus legislation introduced two weeks ago marks the beginning of that process, and I would think that you, a civil-rights champion, would endorse it.
Philip Kovacs is a former high school teacher, an assistant professor, and the Chair of the Educator Roundtable
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES