Saturday, February 16, 2008

Garrison Keillor smacks fellow Democrats for wholesale opposition to flawed Republican NCLB

Garrison Keillor invokes the assistance of Saint Michael the Archangel, patron of mariners, to raise reading scores for struggling 4th graders ...who are "at sea" ...I guess.

Keillor accurately points out that NCLB, which is looking doomed these days, need not be trashed when it can be fixed. The assessment system is a problem for its bad design and resulting tendency to undermine the very growth it hopes to support. The Reading First scandal showed the Republican administration's willingness to subordinate a noble purpose to specific commercial interests, but is still a worthy effort - and one of the few places NCLB actually put some money toward improving conditions for kids.

Keillor keeps the focus where is ought to be - on the kids, and off of partisan politics.
We're failing our kids
No Child Left Behind has plenty of flaws,
but throwing it out because it's a Republican plan
is morally disgusting.

By Garrison Keillor at

...Reading is the key to everything. Teaching children to read is a fundamental moral obligation of the society. That 27 percent are at serious risk of crippling illiteracy is an outrageous scandal.

This is a bleak picture for an old Democrat. Face it, the schools are not run by Republican oligarchs in top hats and spats but by perfectly nice, caring, sharing people, with a smattering of yoga/raga/tofu/mojo/mantra folks like my old confreres. Nice people are failing these kids, but when they are called on it, they get very huffy. When the grand poobah Ph.D.s of education stand up and blow, they speak with great confidence about heories of teaching, and considering the test results, the bums ought to be thrown out.

There is much evidence that teaching phonics really works, specially with kids with learning disabilities, a growing constituency. But because phonics is associated with behaviorism and with conservatives, and because the Current Occupant has spoken on the subject, my fellow liberals are opposed.

Liberal dogma says that each child is inherently gifted and will read if only he is read to. This was true of my grandson; it is demonstrably not true of many kids, including my sandy-haired, gap-toothed daughter. The No Child Left Behind initiative has plenty of flaws, but the Democrats who are trashing it should take another look at the Reading First program. It is morally disgusting if Democrats throw out Republican programs that are good for children. Life is not a scrimmage. Grown-ups who stick with dogma even though it condemns children to second-class lives should be put on buses and sent to North Dakota to hoe wheat for a year.

St. Michael, I beg you to send angels to watch over fourth-graders who are struggling to read, because the righteous among us are not doing the job.

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