July 10, 2007


Democrats Step On NCLB Running Into Teachers' Arms (Ruben Navarrette, 7/10/07, Real Clear Politics)

NCLB also lifts the curtain on which kids are learning and which aren't by calling for testing in the third through eighth grades and once in high school, and requiring districts to group students' test scores by race and ethnicity. For the most part, teachers hate the emphasis on testing. At their convention, some wore buttons and stickers proclaiming:

"A child is more than a test score." And they really hate having to advertise to the world what sort of job they're doing in teaching students of certain racial and ethnic backgrounds.

This suggests that teachers know more than they're letting on about which students they're serving and which they're sacrificing. The law shares the information with the rest of us.

So you might think that the Democrats running for president, who rarely miss an ethnic celebration and who claim to have the best interests of African-Americans and Latinos at heart, would rush to defend No Child Left Behind -- especially since the candidates who were in Congress in 2001 voted for the legislation.

You know better. The only thing close to the heart of politicians is cold cash, and those with the cash -- i.e., unions such as the NEA -- want this law tossed into the dustbin. NCLB comes up for reauthorization in Congress later this year and the campaign to kill it is well under way.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NEA gave more than $1.9 million to candidates in the 2006 federal elections. Another union, the American Federation of Teachers, gave more than $2.1 million.

And, if the pattern of contributions during over the last three decades is any indication, the lion's share of that money went to Democrats over Republicans by a margin of 9-1.

Of course, Democrats didn't even realize that NCLB contained a voucher system (not that the Stupid Party did either) and that they truly do have to oppose or else poor kids will get decent educations and break the cycle of dependence while public teachers unions will be attrited.

Why can't British students write like Americans?: Expression and thought are linked. Crude language means crude thinking (Sarah Churchwell, 11 July 2007, Independent)

Every spring, I have Rex Harrison's voice in my head, singing: "Why can't the English teach their children how to speak? Norwegians learn Norwegian; the Greeks are taught their Greek." For eight years I've been teaching extremely bright, overwhelmingly middle-class university students studying American and English literature, who achieved minimum A-level scores of three Bs. They are intelligent, skilled at passing exams, and most of them don't know what defines a complete sentence. This is not sarcasm: every year I ask my students to name the three parts of a complete sentence. Usually they mumble, "subject, verb, object" or "subject, verb, predicate". I have never had an English student who knew the answer. The Norwegians and the Greeks do. So do the Americans, because they were taught grammar, vocabulary, and spelling. The majority of middle-class Americans who went to a state school, like me, have known the definition of a complete sentence since age seven. (In case anyone is wondering, the answer is: subject, predicate - which essentially means verb - and complete thought.)

Why doesn't the BBC just buy Grammar Rock?

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 10, 2007 10:26 PM

Conjuction Junction, what's your function???

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly get your adverbs here -

I always hated that one.

Posted by: Sandy P at July 11, 2007 12:34 AM

Easy one. The teaching of grammar is sharply antithetical to multicultural education.

Just because vulgar diction, usage and vocabulary are markers of low social and economic class, the teaching of a "right" way of speaking and writing is treated as "classist" hegemonism.

Now is the U.S., this tendency is tempered by parental expectations that schools are to prepare children for advancement and success. I do not know enough about British education to do more than hazard a guess, but I suspect that their system is more centralized, less democratic, and more susceptable to the imposition of unfolkish values by the public education establishment.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 11, 2007 3:55 AM

If you don't have command of your language it is difficult - if not impossible - to think. I believe one author called the deliberate destruction of a language "Newspeak".

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 11, 2007 7:48 AM

Other than the tutored and the motivated rich, show me an American kid who can write.

The UK may be worse than the US, but the remdiation that goes on here is evidence that things suck here too.


Show me the voucher provisions in NCLB. In spirit, it's there, but not in practice.

A few hundred kids in special situations isn't enough to persuade me.


You suffer from the delusion that your pointless vote for a powerless board member is "democracy" in education.

Ask yourself, "with literally 1000s of districts across the nation, why is there virtually NO difference in curricula?"

3 text book companies, one math curriculum sold 10 different ways by "consultants" who used to be teachers, interchangable "Superintendents" who all speak the same oily version of "ed-speak...

Your point about parental expectation is 100% correct, but the waste, spending, fraud, and piggish payroll and pension bloat that is bankrupting entire states doesn't connect one neuron in one child's head.

Kill the District, fund every child equally (inside the state), and give every parent a 100% fully funded scholarship/voucher, and turn every school into an independent charter run by the parents who choose it.


Posted by: Bruno at July 11, 2007 8:08 AM

Only Americans who went to public school before the 60's know anything about grammar, etc.

I disagree that each family should make the decision about which school to send their kids. Parents in the most part aren't people who read blogs like this. They don't know which school to pick and would be easily manipulated into choosing the one with the fanciest cafeteria and computer lab, so the same people would be back in power as are running things now.

Each taxing municipality should run the public school within its jurisdiction with local taxpayers funding them completely. No grants from the state or the feds.

Maybe voting is only a myth, but it's our myth and we'll keep it.

Posted by: erp at July 11, 2007 9:00 AM

Not only is it there in practice, but it works so well that folks in good schools hate it:


The middle class, whose kids get an excellent education, are the primary foes of vouchers. Teachers are secondary.

Posted by: oj at July 11, 2007 11:43 AM

America's Middle Class Kids get an awful education. The levels of statisfaction are delusional fevers of Soccer Momism.

I'll read the article, but NCLB would be better if someone actually enforced it. Here in Illinois, it is a joke.

Posted by: Bruno at July 11, 2007 1:38 PM

Ah, the siren song of the elite: I know better than you what's good for you...

Posted by: oj at July 11, 2007 2:59 PM

Whell, that certainly proved our point about the shortcomings of contemporary education in literacy.

I am quite sure than my original comment stated not that American education was democratic, only that it was somewhat more so than the British.

Yet somehow the clear words of comparison were transmogrified by one reader into an absolute declaration of a democratic system. Thus is demonstrated the tragedy of inadequate comprehension of the written and spoken word.

Of course all the criticisms of our system, even if it be superior to the British, are well taken. From the belly of the beast, Ecrasez l'Infame.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 11, 2007 4:57 PM

I attended elementary school in the midwest in the 70's. My formal grammar is shaky but I was taught how to diagram a setence- a skill that my east coast contemporaries were denied. I've read that sentence structure hasn't been taught in a formal way in at least a generation.

I think that teachers who are in their 20's and 30's have much poorer educations than their predecessors, and the students they are now teaching will have even fewer formal skills. We're seeing the results of a century's worth of Dewey's crackpot child-centered educational theories put into practice. It's not surprising that most of my friends with BA's and MA's are largely self-taught in their respective fields finer technical points.

Posted by: tsol at July 11, 2007 5:56 PM

Education is excellent for the American middle class, which is why they defend it so fiercely from the poor.

Posted by: oj at July 11, 2007 8:31 PM

Lou, the fun of these posts is taking the string off on tangential topics.

Posted by: erp at July 11, 2007 9:05 PM