Teaching Profession

Union Leader’s Tune Ridicules Federal Law

By Sean Cavanagh — October 01, 2004 1 min read
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In the 2½ years since the No Child Left Behind Act became law, its critics have attacked it in policy statements, research reports, stump speeches, and sound bites. But visitors attending a few of the “house parties” staged in Iowa last week, organized by some of the law’s most vocal detractors, heard the sweeping education measure ridiculed in what may be an entirely new format: song.

Lily Eskelsen, the National Education Association’s secretary-treasurer, showed up for a party here with an acoustic guitar and, about a half-hour into the meeting, launched into verse.

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“A bureaucrat came to our town/ At first we thought he jested,” Ms. Eskelsen began, strumming her six-string. “He said, ‘When I get through with you folks/ There’ll be no child left untested.’ ”

The song is titled “No Child’s Behind Left,” a reference to a mildly bawdy lyric that goes: “If we have to test their butts off/ There’ll be no child’s behind left.”

Ms. Eskelsen found a receptive audience here at the Marion event, held at the home of Bob Gilchrist, a former Iowa Education Association president. About a dozen guests—many of them classroom teachers—laughed and applauded during the short song.

The NEA has been sharply critical of the federal law, and its opposition has, in turn, angered Bush administration officials, who accuse the union of poisoning its members’ opinions of the measure by spreading false information about its requirements.

The administration’s opinion isn’t likely to improve upon hearing the lyrics penned by Ms. Eskelsen, a former Utah teacher. Most of the ditty’s jabs echo an oft-repeated NEA criticism: The law saddles teachers and students with excessive testing and judges their performance in a reductive way.

“Drill those kids like little robots/ Even if the young ones cry,” the song goes. “Perfection or we punish you/ At Stepford Child Junior High.”

Ms. Eskelsen decided to compose the tune after appearing on a nationally televised talk show with an administration official who defended the law. The NEA secretary-treasurer is now selling a compact disc that also includes several education-themed numbers for $15 apiece. But to adhere to campaign-finance laws, only NEA members can buy it, she says. Proceeds go to the union’s political action committee.

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