NCLB Strikes Out with George Will, “Family Guy”

December 10, 2007 1 min read

I’m always interested to see how the public perceives NCLB. Not everyone understands growth models or the Title I formula. But NCLB has worked its way into American consciousness.

Yesterday, for example, NCLB was the topic of George Will’s column and in the plot of “Family Guy.” That spans the sublime to the ridiculous—or ridiculous to the sublime, depending on your perspective.

In his Sunday Washington Post column, Will summarizes the conservative critique of NCLB. He endorses the NCLB proposals of Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., and Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J. (see here and here). Their plans, he writes, “would enable states to push Washington toward where it once was and where it belongs regarding K through 12 education: Out.”

Over at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Michael J. Petrilli responds that NCLB’s problems could be solved by national standards and tests. If the federal government pays for their development costs, he writes, states would be responsible for implementing them.

In prime time, the high school principal on “Family Guy” expels the title character’s son because the kid is the “dumbest student we have.” And the school is using history textbooks from 1948 because “NCLB cost us federal funding because test scores were too low,” he tells the PTA. (You can watch the episode at Fox on Demand.)

As most of you know, NCLB doesn’t take away schools’ money for low test scores. And the law doesn’t encourage principals to expel their students. But “Family Guy’s” writers decided to rely on the perception that the law does those things as the premise for their episode. In the end, they reinforced that perception for the show’s estimated six million viewers.

Last month, Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., told a reporter that NCLB is “the most tainted brand in America.” That may not be an exaggeration, judging from yesterday’s newspaper and last night’s prime time fare.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.