by David Safier
There was always something slightly insane about No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the ambitious education law often described as the Bush Administration's signature domestic achievement.
"Insane" is a pretty good way of describing a law whose stated goal, is, essentially, to recreate the nation as Lake Wobegon where "all the children are above average." Any school that doesn't accomplish that goal is labeled a failure.
Garrison Keillor was kidding. These folks actually wrote that into law. That's either insane — or a way to hide a very different agenda.
. . . many early critics insisted that No Child Left Behind was nothing more than a cynical plan to destroy American faith in public education and open the way to vouchers and school choice.
Now a former official in Bush's Education department is giving at least some support to that notion. Susan Neuman, a professor of education at the University Michigan who served as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education during George W. Bush's first term, was and still is a fervent believer in the goals of NCLB. And she says the President and then Secretary of Education Rod Paige were too. But there were others in the department, according to Neuman, who saw NCLB as a Trojan horse for the choice agenda — a way to expose the failure of public education and "blow it up a bit," she says. "There were a number of people pushing hard for market forces and privatization." [Bold face added]
I've always believed the reason the conservative forces that controlled the Bush agenda pushed NCLB was to further their goal of promoting vouchers. Hell, I didn't believe it. I knew it. But just like Arizona Republican leaders try not to say the words Javan Mesnard let slip, most conservatives won't admit in mixed company (when liberals or the press are around) that they created NCLB to make public schools look like failures, not to improve them.