[Paleopsych] Meme 042: Public Choice Analysis of the No Child Left Behind Act
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Sat May 28 19:24:11 UTC 2005
Meme 042: Public Choice Analysis of the No Child Left Behind Act
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 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.]
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