Thursday, August 18, 2011


Translation: No Child Left Behind means "No Child Gets Ahead", "Your Child Left Behind".

As I've been continuing with my researches in international education (by and large motivated by the desire to find better solutions for American children, which is not some game I've been playing at), I've come across an interesting article from Nuffic, the Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education, titled "Grading Systems in the Netherlands, the United States and the United Kingdom". A critical section is found on page two, under "Grading culture":

"Statistics show that educators in the New World have always been more generous in the award of a grade A than those in Europe. The danger in this is that it may lead to grade inflation, which, in fact, has developed into a trend in American higher education over the past 30 years. Grade inflation may well be linked to a more competitive attitude in American higher education, where it is far more common for students to compete for scholarships and where admission to the best universities depends on having the best grades. By contrast, university admission in the Netherlands, as in most Continental European countries, was not based on high grades so much as on having the relevant school leaving certificate."

"No Child Left Behind" is a phrase adapted from the work of Dr. James Comer, a professor of child psychiatry at Yale. Dr. Comer has innovated the Comer Process, for use originally in primary school development programs. On the other hand, those who voted for No Child Left Behind as federal law and those who most ardently support it are all college graduates, whose school experience most conferring comparative advantage was achieved in higher, or tertiary, education. And historically Americans developed primary schools and colleges first, and secondary education only later, as a kind of bridge between the two; and our leaders, being generous souls, are loathe to leave any child behind child behind on that path that led to their own life-fulfilling experiences.

But I assert that this American conception and, as I see it, misunderstanding of secondary education badly serves our public; that our peculiar conflation of the 19th-century rural community's common school with the college culture of the early school systems' leaders, with their pseudo-Ivy League sports and extracurriculars emphasizing dances, dating, homecoming, prom, and all the related instances of American secondary school exceptionalism, degrades our academic and economic efficiency and leads to serious social problems such as excessive teenage pregnancy; and that a major consequence of these errors, in spite of good intentions and generosity, is that our academic standards become steadily degraded and our more academically minded families flee into gated communities and private schools, in large part because in our public secondary schools their children are overlooked and are not allowed to get ahead, because any achievement of excellence would contradict the social vision of the leaders, ironically often Ivy-educated themselves, who call the shots and who insist that no child be left behind; and meanwhile other nations are not competing according to the Washington consensus, and are getting ahead, while your child gets left behind.     

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