To the Editor:
In response to John Merrow’s Commentary comparing the federal No Child Left Behind Act to the Iraq war (“A ‘Surge’ Strategy for No Child Left Behind?,” Feb. 14, 2007):
The No Child Left Behind law can be saved, but should it be? No.
Should the reauthorization of the law be delayed? Yes, but it probably won’t.
To build a political case for leaving no child behind on the premise that the neighborhood public school is the place to inoculate America against what the president has called “the soft bigotry of low expectations” appears to be as politically prescient as the nexus between invading Iraq and finding weapons of mass destruction.
Bigotry, whether soft or hard, is not the common ground that makes America a stronger nation. Neither do expectations, whether low or high, automatically equate to bigotry—in our hospitals, our churches, our grocery stores, our fire departments, our police departments, our public libraries, or our public schools.
No Child Left Behind is one ill-conceived, underfunded, big-government program that is punitive, overly narrows the curriculum, and, simply, is destructive to the long-term interests of America.
We need to trust local school boards to oversee neighborhood schools. Parents and teachers want well-rounded children who will be responsible and productive citizens, not just good test-takers. Parents and teachers want students who are grounded in the foundation skills of reading, writing, and math. They also want students who are creative, imaginative, and who seek to discover the as yet undiscoverable.
Will the federal law inoculate America against the soft bigotry of low expectations? Have we found the weapons of mass destruction yet?
William E. Powell
A version of this article appeared in the March 07, 2007 edition of Education Week as ‘No Child Left Behind’ and Nation’s Common Ground