Thomas Sobol is right that the No Child Left Behind Act is used as a distraction from confronting educational issues with direct implications for the nation’s future (“Beyond No Child Left Behind,” Commentary, Sept. 20, 2006). But Mr. Sobol is wrong if he believes that these issues would be addressed if the federal law were to suddenly vanish at reauthorization time.
Since the 1966 Coleman Report, we’ve known about the limitations that school quality has on the difference in average achievement between black and white students. Yet in the four decades following its publication, we’ve continued to persist in the comforting delusion that schools alone can narrow the gap. It’s hard to understand, therefore, why Mr. Sobol believes that “beyond No Child Left Behind” we would have the will to adopt social and economic policies with the potential to create equal educational opportunity for all.
On the contrary, in the face of the threat posed by the global economy of the future, the likelihood is that education will increasingly focus on those students deemed most potentially useful to society. These will be the elite students whose entire lives have prepared them to quickly move into positions of power and influence. It will be the ideal environment for unfettered social Darwinism.
Los Angeles, Calif.
A version of this article appeared in the October 04, 2006 edition of Education Week as Seeing ‘Unfettered Social Darwinism’ in Our Future