The Silver Lining of NCLB
Gary Obermeyer, Sunday Jan 08, 2012, 08:45 pm
When No Child Left Behind was initially enacted, I posted an "open letter to the president" on an online educator forum. In it, I took the position that the goal of leaving no child behind was good (except for the fact that it misused a long-standing mission statement of the Children's Defense Fund); but, that the approach was all wrong.
I argued that the legislation should have been based on an acknowledgment that the existing educational system was designed to leave children behind (e.g. grading and sorting) and that a fundamental transformation was needed. I went on to suggest that entire initiative should have been approached in much the way of President Kennedy's moon landing challenge. Just as his challenge mobilized a nation to create and deploy technology (much of which did not yet exist in 1961), Bush could have rallied the nation to support innovation on a massive scale (sorta like a massive action research project) to invent our way from mass production to a system of student-centered schooling.
Talk about stinging rebukes! I got all kinds of vicious responses. Surprisingly, the most hostile respondents accused me of attacking the president, but not one engaged the proposal itself. I abandoned my public critique of NCLB. Ah, but 10 years later, I'm pleased to report that the climate has changed. If there is a silver lining to NCLB, it is that it has served to make the need for fundamental change more obvious.
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