Lot ‘ Children Left Behind (11/16/07)

June 25 cartoon by Berkley artist Khalil Bendib (email, video and bio, cartoon archive, fine arts website).

November 14’s passage by the House of the Conference Committee’s Head Start bill had me thinking about how there was a time when legislation had names which expressed their purpose: Head Start, Social Security, Medicaid. Compare that with how the Bush administration names programs.

It brings to mind another George, George Orwell and his novel 1984. It’s all part of the marketing of “compassionate conservatism.” The “Clean Air Act” could be called “Let the Companies Pollute our Air More Act.” The “PATRIOT Act” could be called “The Eviscerate the Founding Freedoms Act.” And most callously, “The No Child Left Behind Act” could be called…well, make up your own title.

Whatever your title, it should have something to do with undermining confidence and curriculum for the public schools. Universal quality public education, along with well-funded public libraries, hold potential for leveling the playing field of opportunity, for creating an informed, questioning citizenry. Is it any wonder that plutocrats would find them a bad thing?

My sister teaches special education. My friends and neighbors have children enrolled in public school. And so, I have seen the gnashing of teeth in response to No Child Left Behind up close. Complaints of teaching to the test, rather than concentrating on excellence in methods and curriculum abound here in Virginia. But, in some states, things are worse, as revealed by Kevin Carey’s (email, bio) report released November 13, 2007, The Pangloss Index: How States Game the No Child Left Behind Act, published by the non-profit Think Tank, Education Sector.

The library will be closing in a few minutes, but in the days ahead, I’ll be looking both at Bush’s reaction to the Head Start program passed by Congress and at the renewal of No Child Left Behind and the recommendations of Carey and others. Stay tuned.

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