As is often the case, a piece of legislation, or initiative, sounds good on paper, but is a disaster in practice. The poster child (excuse the pun), was the awful No Child Left Behind act. The basic concept was great, who could possibly argue with the concept that every child be afforded the same educational opportunities? Education should not be dependent on social or economic background. An inner city child living in a depressed area is equally deserving as a pampered and well heeled child living in a well heeled community.

The problem with No Child Left Behind was not the intention behind of the idea, but rather the implementation. I have yet to meet a single person even remotely involved in education that has any nice words to say about No Child Left Behind. 

The implementation was done using the ‘stick’ rather than the ‘carrot’ approach. Rather than help school’s and school districts with issues, punishments in the form of slashed budgets were placed over their heads.

As the implications of NCLB rippled through the system the threats were clear. Schools had to concentrate on the ‘core’ subjects to maintain their rankings in ‘standardized tests’. Now don’t get me wrong, I think the three R’s are incredibly important. But I also think that Soft Skills are a vital component as well.

Without Soft Skills a child is less able to integrate into the adult world. It would be ridiculous to blame NCLB on the current state of youth obesity, but with sports programs slashed, children certainly do not get as much opportunity for organized and monitored fitness opportunities. Sports also teach the soft skill of being part of a team. Without an understanding of how to work within a team, a young adult is going to find the working world a very hostile place.

History was also a victim of NCLB. Who needs history? Everyone needs history. Understanding the past, offers clues to the present and the future. History offers a veritable cornucopia of learning. 

Geography is another skill that has gone by the wayside. Yet it is important. Understanding the world, and where in the world places are, can do much to expand horizons. Here are a couple of very depressing findings from the National Geographic organization that periodically survey young adults in the US:

Half of young Americans can’t find New York on a map.

About 11 percent of young citizens of the U.S. couldn’t even locate the U.S. on a map.

Hmm That’s a sad state of affairs!

Things hardly improved in 2006:

More young U.S. citizens in the study knew that the island featured in last season’s TV show “Survivor” is in the South Pacific than could find Israel.

Oh and it should be pointed out that Nat Geo defined Young Adults as being between 18-24!

Also getting the axe in NCLB were many social studies classes. Sure I hear people say “so who cares’? Well, I feel that it is important for young people to at least have a small exposure to cultures other than the iPhone. Understanding the mores and laws that others have does much for you in the real world.

So what has NCLB done? The simple answer is NADA. Sure you have a bunch of kids that have passed the tests, but what happens then?

Many students enter college in the United States without the basic academic skills needed to be successful in their coursework. Researchers from the Manhattan Institute Center for Civic Information found that only 32% of students leave high school academically prepared for college

I did not make it up, that came from a Harvard Associate Professor.

It is time to let go of NCLB and move on to Let Every Child Advance!

Today that door was partially opened, 10 states have been given waivers which permit them to ‘hopefully’ go back to teaching rather than the narrow minded goals of NCLB. I can only hope that other states join the movement!

BRING BACK EDUCATION! Bring back sanity, rescue our future before it is too late!

Simon Barrett   



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