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‘No Child’ Critique Is Music to Their Ears

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Politicians forged the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Wonks have studied it. Educators have debated it. But it hasn’t been something to sing about.

Until recently.

A group of folk singers, teachers, and students has produced a compact disc, “No Child Left Behind? Bring Back the Joy.”

In 15 tracks on the disc, the singers rail against standardized testing and offer a vision of schooling where children learn in the style that suits them best.

In one song, a Milwaukee middle school girl belts out a bluesy tune about tests wasting children’s minds. In another, set to the tune of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” singers proclaim: “These schools are your schools, these schools are our schools / No politicians rewriting our rules / No bubble test sheets or unfair standards / These schools were made for you and me.”

Eldon “Cap” Lee, a retired Milwaukee alternative-school principal and one of the organizers of the CD project, said the No Child Left Behind law is well-intentioned, but its focus is misplaced.

“We shouldn’t go back to letting kids slide through without learning anything,” he said. “But the way they’re using standardized testing is too punitive.”

The CD, released last September, hasn’t cracked the Billboard charts: it’s sold 620 copies nationwide.

But Mr. Lee has come out of retirement. He’s now singing in a new group called the Dangerous Folk trio.

Vol. 24, Issue 36, Page 29

Published in Print: May 11, 2005, as ‘No Child’ Critique Is Music to Their Ears

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