Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Democracy Left Behind

I just watched a PBS documentary called Democracy Left Behind. It is an attack on No Child Left Behind, the Bush administration policy of testing schoolkids in math and reading. It was made by Santa Cruz filmmaker Bob Gliner, and it interviewed local educators. Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley professor of Education and Public Policy, complained: (18 kin. into a 1 hour show)
It depoliticizes the education process. I mean we have adolescents around this country that know about political problems. They watch Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. In the media, in music, they talk about racism and about inequality. Yet they walk into a classroom, and somehow this is antithetical to what education now looks like under NCLB. So it is this disconnect between kids' daily lives, their consciousness, what's going on in a social class and unequal society. It is that disconnect between their daily lives and what they hear from their teacher which I think leads to understandable alienation and high rates of drop out.
About the only response in defense of NLCB was from Kati Haycock, director of The Education Trust, who said:
In focusing in particular on things like reading and writing and math,we are somehow depriving young people of the skills that they need to participate in a democracy -- I mean that core idea is just nuts.
She is right. That was the core idea of the film, and it is just nuts.

As an example of something that they'd like to teach instead of math and reading, the film showed an elementary school class on South African apartheid.

The show just convinces me that our public schools are run by crazy leftist political ideologues who will sabotage the educational process at every opportunity. Only standardized testing, as required by NCLB and also by state law, forces them to stick to the curriculum and actually teach something useful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think a point that is missed by many of the reviews that I have read is the type of instruction the documentary is advocating for. There are far too many kids in schools that are "achieving" vs "learning". You can jump through the educational hoops, which is what our educational system is, and you are considered "well educated". The documentary is saying that how we are teaching our students is not producing a thinking population. We have a "don't think, and just do" educational system. As mentioned in the documentary, "A democracy is not meant for people to follow what someone say or thinks, but to come-up with your own assumptions and ideas based on your own thinking"...this is the demise of our democracy! We are too busy teaching instead of having students busy thinking and learning.