January 20, 2005


The Eve of Destruction: George Bush is getting four more years to remake the world in his image. (Too bad for us, he already started.) (Rick Perlstein, January 18th, 2005, Village Voice)

That's just how the Bushies do things: They plan. Every action is calculated to set in motion a cascade of consequences, to change the world. Take "No Child Left Behind," the education "reform" so brilliantly named you can't be against it without betraying some perverse desire to, well, leave children behind. It is a stone hustle, meant to lay the groundwork to destroy the entire American public school system.

Look at it this way. You've heard of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the one that produces those anguished news reports every four years about all the countries American schoolchildren lag behind in basic skills. But according to the TIMSS, if Minnesota were a country, it would have the second-best science scores and the seventh best in math. By No Child Left Behind's statutorily required benchmarks of "Adequate Yearly Progress," however, only 42 percent of Minnesota fourth-graders were proficient in math. And NCLB's test targets increase every year. So by one estimate, in 2014, some 80 percent of the schools in Minnesota's world-class education system will be rated "failures."

The benchmarks are insane, you see. If one group within a school out of the 37 categories NCLB measures "fails," the entire school does. Which means, according to the president of the American Educational Research Association, 12th-graders should be proficient in math in exactly 166 years.

Which serves the administration's purpose admirably. Failure, glorious failure: In Chicago, the city must now offer 200,000 students the chance to move out of "failed" schools—but there are only 500 spaces in which to place them elsewhere. So now the public school system must be destroyed.

It's only politics. It was the first George Bush who tried to initiate the privatization of American education but failed; in 2000, Michigan and California pro-voucher ballot initiatives lost by at least two to one. But that was back when 43 percent of American parents gave their children's schools a grade of "A" or "B." By 2004, that number was cut in half. "The tests mandated by NCLB had ripped back the curtain and exposed a major national problem," explains Phyllis Schlafly—even, apparently, in noble Minnesota.

That's far more insight on the issue of NCLB than most of the President's allies have been blessed with. But the artwork accompanying Friend Perlstein's essay provides an answer to Michael Walzer's plaintive question of whether there can be a decent Left:

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 20, 2005 9:38 AM

--In Chicago, the city must now offer 200,000 students the chance to move out of "failed" schools—but there are only 500 spaces in which to place them elsewhere.--

Now which hole did he pull that # out of?

If there's enough kids, the churches will find a way.

They always do.

Posted by: Sandy P at January 20, 2005 9:46 AM

Eve of the Destruction - the 60s boomers/progressives were all about destruction, now the shoe's on the other foot...

Posted by: Sandy P at January 20, 2005 10:14 AM

This conservative "hustle" has produced no significant school choice anywhere in America while dramatically increasing Federal spending tossed down the rathole of public schooling.

This guy probably could be convinced Prescott Bush killed JFK.

3+ years after NCLB: any voucher kids in Chicago? Houston? NYC? LA? Phoenix? Bay Area? Seattle? Boston? Denver? St. Louis? Minneapolis? Kansas City? Miami? Atlanta? Crawford?

NCLB was a hustle, but the Right was being hustled, not the Left.

Posted by: Palmcroft at January 20, 2005 10:14 AM

The article is right: The best public schools fail NCLB because the sub-populations, for various reasons cannot make AYP. For example, our neighborhood elementary school, long considered of the best in the city, has failed NCLB AYP two years in a riw and is on a "warning" list because our "economically disadvantaged" students aren't cutting it.

Well, duh. Many of these students have parents who cannot provide academic support at home, and who have not provided genetic endownment in the past. That's why many of them are economicaly disadvantaged to begin with. How could they be expected to perform up to the standard of the mainstream population?

No sane person could expect that, but we are talking about public school teachers here. Remember, they have been telling the world for the last 30-odd years that all we have to do is keep shovelling money at them and human differences will be erased, and all the elephants in the living room will disappear.

The left, and this has included the public education establishment, has made the same error the Germans made in WWII: they have assumed that their opponents were inferior, stupid, subhumans. They are about to pay the same price.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 20, 2005 10:24 AM

70,000 kids NATIONWIDE; this is an embarrassment and points to the shame of NCLB and the complete victory of one Ted Kennedy in this matter

there are 30 times more millionaires in this country than there are kids with school choice;
there are more Amish kids in this country than kids with school choice;
there are 100 times more teachers in this country than kids with school choice!

so, OJ, get over it, NCLB is a joke

Posted by: Palmcroft at January 20, 2005 11:06 AM

Palmcroft: Point is, how many were there before NCLB? How many 1 year later? 2 years? If it is growing exponentially, than your point will be moot in a few years.

Posted by: Buttercup at January 20, 2005 11:16 AM

I am not really very interested in what Perlstein think of education in Minnesota. If he thinks it's actually good, he should move here and put his children in a Minneapolis public school, not an all-white school on the South Dakota border. There are a couple of good schools here in town--hope he can get his child in one.

But they're mostly terrible. I think the public school teachers here very often try hard. It isn't enough, not nearly acceptable. My niece's great-uncle, a well-known figure in the Hmong community, a consultant to the St Paul public schools and a professor at the University, specifically called to ask me to send her to private school. But hey Mr Perlstein--what would he know? Move your family to Camden or Bloomington Avenue and prove him wrong!

Posted by: Brian (MN) at January 20, 2005 11:17 AM

While the inner city schools in MN are admittedly poor, the rest of the schools are quite good. MN has had school choice for years prior to NCLB. Since 1991 you can enroll your child in any district you want, provided the district has room and you pay for the transportation.

Some districts like Mounds View have a 3+ year waiting list.

Posted by: Gideon at January 20, 2005 11:47 AM


I didn't just look at Minneapolis and St Paul by the way. The schools in the first-ring suburbs aren't much either, and neither is Eden Prairie. Acceptable maybe, but not great.

Posted by: Brian (MN) at January 20, 2005 12:08 PM

Yeah, the Bushies plan while the Lefties protest. Oddly, I doubt this will convince the Left of anything other than "we need to protest more, to get our message out".

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 20, 2005 12:08 PM

Of couse NCLB puts public schools in a box they can't get out of. If you want to do a hostile political takeover of an industry (and that's all primary education is, it's a service industry), then you start by setting it a goal in the public mind that you know it can never meet. Unsafe at Any Speed, anyone? Progressives have been doing this to regular industry for the better part of a century now, and it works. Why is Perlstein surprised to find himself staring at the business end of his own weapon?

Posted by: joe shropshire at January 20, 2005 12:37 PM

Joe: very insightful, it's a very interesting comparison you make; I hope school failures end up creating real choices for the kids, not just other public school choices, e.g., charter schools, but real non-public school choices; so far, it simply has not happened

Posted by: Palmcroft at January 20, 2005 3:11 PM