City of Roses
Hey, Huan Yi! I'm sooooo glad you decided to launch this new topic regarding the No Child Left Behind Act! Education is an issue I feel very strongly about (education and the environment are the two most important issues of all, in my opinion) so if I may, let me explain how I don't consider No Child Left Behind an effective education initiative.
I think the best thesis to make in opposition of it is, "NCLB is a siege on the public school system". Some may say it is a reform of the public school system. But I look it as an initiative rooted on mistrust and pressure points. I think it's actually a rather cynical initiative that has drawn high expectations for all public school systems, expecting them to reach all these thresholds in test performance, punishing schools who fail to reach the thresholds with sanctioning and budget cutting and making the public school system more competitive than ever before. So I actually see it as an excuse to find an alternative to public schools.
I think the scariest thing about NCLB is that its architects claim its based on "scientific evidence". If they mean science as the Hawthorne Effect, the theory that if you put more pressure on someone, he or she will work harder and better, you're just pressing your luck and gambling with the children. How is assuming the grass is greener on the other side of the fence every time, or the theory sending a kid from one school to another will excel, scientific?
The public school system isn't perfect, but something as reckless as this is, I don't believe, the solution. It's intensely politically-motivated, and education I believe should be as least politically-motivated as possible. It influences the whole corporate culture again in buying out more schools and offering children a Stouffers type of offering. And, ultimately, I just see this as education's Pandora's Box.
In my experience volunteering and helping educate children at local elementary schools with kids with special needs, I have come to realize the importance of the proverb, "It takes a whole village to raise a child". It makes me wonder, "Where is the community? What must be done, or, what is example, to bringing the village together again for the sake of our children?"
Here in Portland, in 1998, the City of Portland and Multnomah County agreed to partner up to support school success and education by forming a "school-based delivery model". In result, a committee of representatives from the county, city, state, school districts and local community organizations was formed, which met for seven months to design this ideal delivery model. The labor of love formed in the process was an expanded community school proposal that "added educational activities and social services, and increased the involvement of families, community members and local businesses."
Together, they patented what is now known as "SUN Schools", which stands for "Schools Uniting Neighborhoods". They selected eight schools to begin with to go under the name, which they chose the schools based on four characteristics; 1) "a successful history of integrating services and intergovernmental collaboration", 2) "a successful history of community partnerships", 3) "had a three to five year plan which integrates the broad parameters of this concept on a local level", and 4) that the school had challenging neighborhood conditions, such as "underserving by social support services", high numbers of students from different backgrounds, or challenged by unemployment or poverty.
In the process, each SUN school believes in the ethics that learning "involves personal discovery, action, observation and reflection" and that their creative, hands-on active education program "is a process of respecting one’s self, the arts, and our connections to others and the natural world." They also encourage the community to volunteer and help out, for they believe interaction with the community advances the full social potential for each child.
I volunteered at one of these schools last term, Buckman Elementary. I witnessed and monitored multiple classes to see these ethics put into action, and I have to say it was the most wonderful experience of volunteer work. Last November, after suggesting to the teacher of Storytime Players to choose a story that also incorporates the moral of understanding others, she decided on "Giraffes Can’t Dance" by Giles Andreae, a book about a giraffe who wants to dance, but with crooked knees, jellylike neck and long wobbly legs, is the laughing stock at the annual Jungle Dance, until a cricket tells him that those who are different "just need a different song" and then finds his voice to the music of the moon, where his soulful dancing wins over the whole animal kingdom and teaches young readers that everyone can be wonderful, and we will in embracing the voice within.
I was reminded earlier in the year when learning of the social learning approach. After you govern yourself and find your integrity or find your voice, it takes observation to be able to relate or interpret other everyday life situations. Albert Bandura, a modern social psychologist, believes that "the fundamental approach of social learning theorists is based on the recognition that behavior is in large measure determined by situational factors outside the individual" and that the individual plays a major role in analyzing the situation through psychological response.
In other words, it’s basically the notion of "It takes a whole village to raise a child" all over again, in that we all must "attend to actions of others" and witness the situations, remember what happened and also what happened to who was being observed, choose to imitate or not according to our moral conscience, and treat each evaluation as a learning experience.
Ultimately, through understanding yourself and observing others, then interacting among others, you grow to acknowledge the importance of community, which I once again indeed felt since the first day volunteering there.
That's what I feel a lack of in NCLB. Community. NCLB is more testimonial than scientific to me, and privatizes more than it volunteers.
In a Leadership for Change class I took last semester, I learned something that I still feel now. Peter Vaill, a professor from the University of St. Thomas, likes to think of these times as "swirling rapids of permanent white water" and that simply working harder is not the way to fight the tides, but rather working smarter. Working smarter collectively, knowing that "collaborative practices build more community and commitment than isolated, individual actions do.", reflectively smarter in taking the time to make sense out of what is happening "in order to gain perspective and understanding" and "keep a sense of common purpose" and spiritually smarter in being aware of our values that help shape our character. In this co-op personal leadership approach, Vaill claims we can gain new insight and understand and recognize paradigms and the progress we’ve made.
I just don't see that happening under NCLB. This is a gamble, a shot in the dark, a lot of helter-skelter, and I'm concerned of the unpredictable effects it can have on the public education system and the relationships between students, teachers, parents, educational activists and faculties.
I think we need something that leans more to community like SUN Schools.
"You'll find something that's enough to keep you
But if the bright lights don't receive you
You should turn yourself around and come back home" MB20