The River

Monday, January 26, 2004

The path of least resistance

The onslaught is remarkable. There is an agenda at work. An effort to engineer society to acceptance of anti-democratic ideas. To wipe out democracy, and accept a ruling elite, a new world order. They are aiming for the day that the masses will think it’s always been this way, life is harsh, totalitarian control is necessary, we’ve always been at war with Eurasia.

For example, they are coming after education. Haven’t we accepted already that there isn’t enough money to pay for good public schools (but billions for oil wars and moon shots), that testing and more testing will solve the problem?

In response to the State of the Union address, independent journalist Greg Palast posted some observations on funding testing while underfunding our schools:

"By passing the No Child Left Behind Act," you said, "We are regularly testing every child ... and making sure they have better options when schools are not performing."

You said it ... and then that little tongue came out; that weird way you stick your tongue out between your lips like the little kid who knows he's fibbing. Like a snake licking a rat. I saw that snakey tongue dart out and I thought, "He knows."

And what you know, Mr. Bush, is this: you've ordered this testing to hunt down, identify and target for destruction the hopes of millions of children you find too expensive, too heavy a burden, to educate.

Here's how No Child Left Behind and your tests work in the classrooms of Houston and Chicago. Millions of 8 year olds are given lists of words and phrases. They try to read. Then they are graded, like USDA beef: some prime, some OK, many failed.

Once the kids are stamped and sorted, the parents of the marked children ask for you to fulfill your tantalizing promise, to "make sure they have better options when schools are not performing."

But there is no "better option," is there, Mr. Bush? Where's the money for the better schools to take in the kids getting crushed in cash-poor districts? Where's the open door to the suburban campuses with the big green lawns for the dark kids with the test-score mark of Cain?

But whatever the classification of the student, the curriculum, too, is being targeted, at least in Georgia (also a pioneer in electronic voting).

Addressing sweeping changes the State is proposing for K-12 curriculum, high school history teacher Joseph Jarrell writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

"The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" will not be mentioned. The development of democratic government in Greece and the fall of the Roman Empire will be skipped. Jesus, Muhammad, the Buddha and Confucius are not to be found in the new curriculum. Great civilizations like ancient Egypt will no longer merit study, and the concept of feudalism will not be discussed.

The present 11th-grade U.S. history course covers the Exploration period to today. In the proposed changes, teachers will spend two or three weeks discussing the foundation of our country, with the remaining time devoted to studying events from 1876 to the present. Gone is any mention of the Louisiana Purchase or Lewis and Clark. There will be no discussion of Indian removal and the Trail of Tears.


Certainly it is a constant challenge to complete the present curriculum. I often feel as though I am running a marathon; however, like any runner, I feel a sense of pride when my students and I complete the race. I know that those who have passed the course have learned an enormous amount.

Would it be easier to teach less? Of course. Would the new curriculum reduce my workload? Doubtlessly. But like so many other history teachers, I know that while claiming to seek the road to excellence, educrats are really leading us down the path of least resistance.

There is also a sinister element to the changes. States are facing new federal mandates to improve test scores. Interestingly, states can devise many of the tests used to measure this improvement. While mandating that we teach less, Georgia will prepare assessments that test less. Interesting formula: teach less, test less, brag more.

Imagine a similar approach with math. Teach half the multiplication tables and test only the half that is taught. Surely scores would rise and the headlines would scream that math scores improved! But students suffer when perception becomes more important than learning.

That, of course, would be students in the public schools. In private schools, as in other privatization schemes, those with money will benefit at the expense of the public. Besides, it’s so much easier to get an ignorant populace to accept its repression.

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