[Paleopsych] Meme 042: Public Choice Analysis of the No Child Left Behind Act

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Sat May 28 19:24:11 UTC 2005

Meme 042: Public Choice Analysis of the No Child Left Behind Act
sent 5.5.27

It won't be that hard to narrow the minority gap in educational achievement, 
the goal of the No Child Left Behind Act, though actually closing it is far 
beyond any educational technology the schools can adopt. The reason is that 
Democrats do not genuinely care about racial equality. Rather, they care about 
jobs for teachers, since a major part of their support is teachers' unions. So, 
teaching jobs are protected. But too many incompetent teachers in middle-class 
schools would provoke a revolt from the middle class. What happens is that the 
most incompetent teachers, as well as the most incompetent administrators, are 
never fired but safely sent to the underserved schools, whose parents go to the 
polls in far lesser percentages than middle-class parents. Every now and then, 
some oversocialized (the Unabomber's term) liberal observes the hypocrisy, but 
he is ignored. What counts for voter support is the promise of equality, not 
the results.

The No Child Left Behind Act, in many ways, is a method of curbing the power of 
the teachers' unions. This power reflects the inability of the States to reign 
in a *nation-wide* lobbying effort of the teachers' unions. It is a structural 
*defect* in State constitutions, which we also see in the nation-wide lobbying 
of trial lawyers and medical malpractice lawyers, which also has been prompting 
Federal legislation, so far without very limited success. The really big 
success was reigning in the pilot and other airline employee unions through the 
Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, but that was not a Federal/State issue.

The reason why there is public education in the first place is due to negative 
externalities created by irresponsible parents who have children they are 
unable or unwilling to properly support, properly being seen in the eyes of the 
taxpayers, who are unwilling to just let children of irresponsible parents fend 
for themselves and, so far, unwilling to restrict the rights of irresponsible 
parents to have children in the first place.

I am speaking, not in terms of some outside notion of social justice, but 
rather of perceived failures by parents and, higher up, defects in State 
constitutional design. Liberals often claim that the Federal government needs 
to step in where the States have "failed," but this notion of failure falls 
into the realm of transcendental (in this case, liberal) values. What is more 
objective is State constitutional failure to reign in nation-wide lobbying 

So the worst teachers and the worst administrators are sloughed off to 
underserved schools, with the result that a great many of the students there 
cannot even read, even though reading is far easier than picking up the grammar 
of a spoken language. NCLB is offering incentives to improve the worst schools. 
To a limited extent, this will work and politicians will rejoice! Liberal 
educrats get more money; parents of children at underserved schools get 
children who can read; conservatives are emboldened by conservative policies 
that better achieve liberal ends.

The conservatives get votes by promising these liberal results using 
conservative means. What's happened is that conservatives have bought into the 
idea that reducing or closing the achievement gap is the first order of 
business. This new ranking came about because conservatives are themselves 
products of public education, which socialized them into this value structure. 
Conservative politicians play into this.

The chief drawback of NCLB is that it mandates that the States develop 
State-wide curriculum standards and that schools have to show "annual yearly 
progress" on tests designed to measure learning under these State-wide 
curriculum standards, or else penalties and, sometime in 2013/4, actual 
withdrawal of Federal money. The result is that the revised curricula are 
directed toward those things upon which it is easy to show this "annual yearly 
progress," which means drill, drill, drill, discipline, discipline in curricula 
that are irrelevant to the world of 2025, when kids will get out of school. 
There had been gradual evolution of State curriculum changes in the direction 
of critical thinking skills and other skills that will be more and more needed 
in the world of 2025, but no more.

These skills are difficult to conceptualize, difficult to teach, difficult to 
measure. (As the current headmaster of my high school has said, the most 
critical skill in the future will be how to distinguish good from bogus 
information in the Internet. I think I can do a pretty good job of it, but it 
would be very difficult to teach the intuitions I have developed, but I'd be 
willing to give it a try.

So, the curriculum is marching backwards, but the politicians will be able to 
claim that never before in history are students better able to enter the world 
of ... 1955! Maybe it is not surprising that we would be upgrading an 
Eisenhower-era curriculum. After all, most of the movers and shakers in the 
world went to school when Ike was President. It's the generals fighting the 
last war, all over again.

But it's the gifted who will be most deprived of what might have been.

I wonder if teachers' unions will be weakened, like unions of all sorts that 
have weakened during the last half century. Politics is shifting away from 
egalitarianism as the major left-right political axis toward universalism vs. 
pluralism. This means Big Ed will have to shift its promises from ending the 
minority gap (a universal standard based upon standarized *tests*) to providing 
race-based education for the genetic plurality that exists among different 
races. This cannot possibly happen while the Republicans are in charge, since 
their entire promise in education is to end the minority gap. It will take 
Democrats about five years to figure out that this justification is no longer 
needed and that it won't produce jobs like it used to. They will figure out 
that race-based education can double the number of educrats. Imagine all the 
research grants, new teacher training programs, assessment development!

And the gifted may at last get programs that really help them out especially. A 
pure free market in education would do better, of course, but that will not 
come about until irresponsible parents stop having children, which is 
considerably farther away from five years after the Republicans leave.

[I am sending forth these memes, not because I agree wholeheartedly with all of 
them, but to impregnate females of both sexes. Ponder them and spread them.]

More information about the paleopsych mailing list