If we had a better long-term memory, we might remember that many of those now applauding Georgia’s exemption from the Federal “No Child Left Behind” act, were some of the most vocal supporters of the idea ten years ago. This reversal can be explained in their deep-rooted belief that government, even when it messes up, has the fix. In order to move forward as individuals, there must first be a big plan, with all sorts of processes and tag lines. That is the mindset of the noble cause, mushrooming into a dependent way of life.
Ten years ago, President Bush, with help from both sides of the political fence, brought NCLB to life. People had every reason to support. This was a plan to make sure every child received a quality education and met national standards which would serve our country well in the future. Who could be against that?
Well, some, like yours truly, thought at the time, it was not a good idea. Being the libertarian I am, I’m never a big fan of one size fits all anything. But my position was not rooted in my politics or my strong understanding of the complex issues surrounding the education system. I had no far-reaching view that saw this day coming. Not hardly. (I thought for sure the Falcons had shot this year.) I was against it because it was simply another attempt by the collective to paper over the real problem at the individual level. You cannot educate someone that doesn’t value an education.
I am willing to bet that for most of us, when we did poorly on tests, it was a measure of our preparation and attitude, not our capability to learn. Apathy was my single biggest hurdle in school, but I somehow managed to make a go of it. I was fortunate to come from a stable home, with hard-working parents that did everything they could to see I got the best education possible. Yet, even under those circumstances, I know I could have done much better than I did. I can only imagine what it would be like to grow up in a home where it just didn’t matter.
Today, it is a much different world. Too many parents would rather be doing something else with their life. Too many parents do not want to grow up. They say they’ve had it rough, and they deserve some happiness of their own, whatever the cost. My oldest daughter works for the Department of Family and Children Services. She sees first-hand, the kind of damage done to a child, when the home is severely dysfunctional, if it even exists at all.
It’s ironic that this massive, bureaucratic attempt to replace lost standards of excellence in the home, with the broad standards of NCLB, was born as an attempt to deal with the unseen issues of a growing dependent culture. If the big government program has the answer to all my problems, why do I need an education? Just dumb me down to a manageable level and move me forward…if you can.
So where do I stand today on No Child Left Behind, or the repeal thereof? The same place I stood before; it just doesn’t matter. The final responsibility for the education of our young people is in the home. Our schools struggle in proportion to how stable families are. There is no big fix out there waiting to be legislated into our lives. The education of our children will be dealt with one home at a time, one parent at a time, and one student at a time. In our light speed world, I sometimes wonder if that will be fast enough, but there really is no other answer. If parents do not care about their child’s education, for whatever the reason, it is highly probable that the child won’t care either. No program; NCLB or some new program to “exempt” us from NCLB, will make any real difference. The only way we ever learn anything, is by seeing the value in learning, not because we know how to play the system for points. As comedian Ron White says, “There’s no fixing stupid.”
Written by Lon McNeil. Mr. McNeil is an Albany independent marketing consultant and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.