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Columns

August 4, 2013

Congress drops the ball

Several years ago, a friend of mine in Oregon retired after a successful career in the waste-management field. He graduated with a degree in elementary education at a time when teaching jobs were difficult to find.

When he couldn’t find a teaching job, and his student loans became due, he did what many young people today are doing, he went back to school and earned a master’s degree — in education.

When he still couldn’t find a teaching position, he took a job with a large waste-management company as a corporate trainer with the hope of one day landing a teaching job. Like the Sirens of Greek mythology, I guess the lure of the 180-day work year was difficult for him to ignore.

Retiring 30 years later, he decided to pursue a post-doctorate in, you guessed it, education. To compound this futility, last week he asked me to review and comment on his dissertation on the impacts of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation enacted in 2001.

Always happy to help a friend, I talked with him about NCLB, mentioning that it’s been about 30 years since the report, A Nation at Risk, documented the failings of the American public school system.

Some things never change.

I posited that NCLB is a great example of what happens when our elected representatives in Washington put aside their differences and in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation design what has to be the most cumbersome nightmare of bureaucratic red tape devised by the human mind.

Congress passed, and the president signed, probably the worst piece of legislation ever.

One day, Obamacare may lay claim to the title, but for now NCLB is pretty much the undisputed champion.

I told him that I think of NCLB as the Bush-Kennedy No Vote Left Behind Act because the legislation is masterful in pandering to both ends of the political spectrum. It allowed the political right to proclaim that they finally introduced “accountability” into the education system at the same time the political left was applauding the amount of money that would be appropriated to implement NCLB.

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