Parents Mentally Prepare Yourselves
Ohanian Comment: My one quarrel with this summary of federal education policy is that Glickman ascribes it to conservative Republicans. Not so! This policy was being formulated in the Clinton term, and should be laid at the feet of the Business Roundtable, embraced by Republican and Democrat corporate lackeys alike. There are plenty of conservative parents who dislike this policy as much as liberals do.
Welcome to the new world of schools that can be summed up in a few words; test, test, test and Big Brother knows what is best! Get ready to comfort, cajole, and shake your head when that swinging school door opens. This year will bring more invalid tests, erroneous formulas to determine passing/promotion rates, harried and frazzled teachers and principals trying to measure up to impossible state and
Forget that what you and other parents across the country want above all else for your children is for learning to be active, challenging, and enriching. Forget that you and other parents trust your local teachers more than anyone else to make educational decisions, forget that you and your fellow local citizens trust least the very folks who have decided what should be required. Just leave your own wishes at home and let Big Brother figure out what is necessary for your child. This will be, of course, a test; a ream of paperwork; and more illogical requirements.
Be prepared to help your child weather boring classroom work filled with test preparation books and homework handouts. Forget about descriptive report cards about what your child can actually do with what he/she knows in real writing, presenting information, and completing hands on projects. No more recess, little attention to art and music or health or social studies or independent and creative learning. If it is not tested, it's not taught. Tests are falling from the sky. Even your preschool child will be tested by a standardized exam to see if he/she is ready and
your third through eighth grader will dread the looming test that, most likely, will
determine whether she moves to the next grade. If she fails, her chances of graduating from high school drop to 50 percent.
Your child will experience now --- unless you are lucky enough to have your child attend a school with talented, creative, and stubbornly independent teachers and school leaders who refuse to buckle under to the big test---- is a test preparation center. No more attention given to the excruciatingly obvious inequities of resources among wealthy and poor communities, no more attention given to the
exacting need for high quality and thoughtful teachers, no more attention given to the real achievement and dropout gap and helping all children receive an excellent education
This new world under the glowing words of the federal legislation entitled No Child Left Behind is an example of the highest order of double speak, non documentation, and selective spin. This legislation was ushered in with unflinching, moral righteousness by a conservative Republican administration that in the past derided federal involvement in community and state affairs and argued always and successfully for loosening rules and regulations for private businesses. This
administration does the opposite when it comes to our most essential public institution, our schools, by increasingly federal involvement and creating hundreds of pages of new requirements, rules, and regulations.
Who profits by this expansion of federal government into local schools? Clearly the
testing industry that monopolizes the text book and commercial education market. Clearly, the school voucher proponents who wish to rid America of that wretched institute entitled public schools whose purpose was to create an independent thinking citizenry.
Our schools have never been what they should be for all children and major overhauls to address the needs of all our children must be the center of what needs to be changed. But what Big Brother requires puts up impossible demands and invalid measures so that in time public schools become more bland, boring, and failure prone so that no one would want to send their own children there. And then, the private sector can jump in and keep American children from serving public purpose and
democracy itself. Instead the corporate sector can teach us their absolute truth that education is about making a profit by developing better consumers; not about ensuring a better generation of wise and inquisitive citizens.
Welcome to the new school year. May it not last long.
Carl D. Glickman holds the Roy and Joann Cole Mitte Endowed Chair in School Improvement at Texas State University -San Marcos where he is involved in a unique, interdisciplinary PH.D. program for public spirited community and school leaders. In addition, he is President of the Institute for Schools, Education, and Democracy. Glickman is a convener of The Forum for Education and Democracy and editor of
"Letters to the next president: What we can do about the real crisis in public education."
Carl D. Glickman
Forum for Education and Democracy
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES