Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Creepiness of No Child Left Behind

This is a topic near and dear to my heart.  I blogged about it once before and it was hijacked by ignorance.  I'm going to try again because it's in the news again.

When I was younger I'd get mad when people (mostly my family) called me lazy.  It would irritate me so much that it would almost bring tears to my eyes.  It didn't encourage me to go mow the yard, but it sure infuriated me.

When I was about 18, I woke up one morning, realized that I was lazy and I've been happier ever since.  To combat a problem, you have to own it.  The problem with the No Child Left Behind policy is that all people are not created equal.  Even the religious zealots need to own it.  Of course, the original quote is taken out of context, but it doesn't preclude people who are historically ignorant from using it out of context all the time anyway.  I'll be coming back to the history problem. I didn't start learning history until I was in my 30's.  Football coaches worried about winning Friday night's game just don't make good history teachers.

You can probably break down school kids into four broad categories: You've got the people who want to learn, but lack the ability to learn quickly.  You've got the people who don't want to learn, but can if given proper motivation.  You've got the people who don't want to learn and lack the ability to learn quickly.  Then you've got the people who excel at learning and have an undying thirst for knowledge.

I'd wager that a policy like No Child Left Behind is going to be an anchor to about 25% of the students.  We can't lump all kids into one training pool and say swim.  Some will drown.  Some will learn to swim quickly, but we'll have to force them to wear flotation devices so that they don't surpass the ones who are drowning.  It's not fair to any of the kids to do this.  Especially the ones who drown.

Recently, this article was published: US History Test Stumps Students.  You can go here and take a sample history test to see how you do.  The report says only 13% of graduates in 2010 could pass the test.  I think the sample gives you 5 questions (you have to pick a grade level).  I got bored with it after I missed the 3rd one.  I mean, I answered the first two correctly and then the third answer I missed, but at that point I was bored with reading the questions.

The article hypothesizes that the No Child Left Behind policy forces schools to be so dedicated on the core disciplines (so that schools can continue to receive government funding) that they gloss over things like history.  It sounds like a good theory.

I still maintain that you can't throw all kids into one class and expect some ubiquitous policy like "No Child Left Behind" to actually help anyone.  Maybe the intentions were good, but there's no way it's going to work because we're all very different.

I think the best way to fix the education system is to implant a device into all Americans under the age of 18 which prevents them from spawning offspring.  When they pass the parenting test, the implant is removed.  Part of the parenting test will be determining their dedication for teaching their young and not relying on the government to do it for them.


  1. Wow! Accusing me of being an ignorant hijacker! What I find totally creepy is being paid the same wage as another teacher that sits his/her lard ass behind a desk, assigns chapters to read and worksheets and insists that's the definition of a teacher. Until people--teachers, parents, administrators, legislators--are held accountable all of us have to suffer from this socialistic legislation.

  2. Really? Accusing me of accusing you of being an ignorant hijacker.

    I agree on all accounts. Except the accusations. It was definitely someone else.

    We do live in a lazy society.

    I wonder if kids were given the choice of who would teach them, which teacher they would choose.

  3. Learning is an emotional experience, when tied to, or combined with something fun it becomes a catalyst to create that intrinsic desire to learn. I can not motivate others to learn, but I can push the right buttons to inspire or create intrinsic motivation.

    Take for instance a person's occupation. How often do you come across someone that LOVES his/her job? In my experience, this love of one's occupation does not occur often. Then why do they stay? They need the money. That is extrinsic motivation, being driven to do something not because of an inner desire or love for the work, but because you get a check. How different is it, then, that children wouldn't want some type of reward/payback for a job well done. We, as adults, expect this type of payoff or compensation. One could argue that children should be grateful for getting an education, that it will lead to bigger and better payoffs in the future. Be realistic though, not many children are going to think that far into the future, and we have all become products of our technologically advanced society where we demand instant gratification. But what if, as an adult, you had a job that you did love? How much more awesome would it be to be paid for something you LOVE to do? So, in this rather lengthy response to your question, the answer is, if given a choice the student would more than likely choose to be taught by the "real" teacher.