No Child Left Behind (NCLB), one of the goofier legislative actions in the last decade, a time filled with ludicrous laws, is scheduled for reauthorization this year. Like most federal incursions into matters that belong to the states, there is a bipartisan effort to expand its presence into even more educational functions.

No Child Left Behind Act

Soon after President George Bush took office in 2001, his administration worked with Senator Ted Kennedy to deliver a law that set up national standards, establish measurable goals, and require states to develop standards and provide assessments to determine whether these standards were met in return for receiving federal largess. As we know, whenever the feds decide to intrude on something that is a state’s duty, they always provide the states with a bribe to induce them to change their behavior. According to the original law, states are required to assess students’ knowledge in reading and math.

Let’s review why this law was stupid before we get into the changes that the Obama administration is recommending. When anyone provides financial rewards for someone else to engage in some behavior, the receiver will emphasize those actions to receive the benefits. So it is with NCLB. States that don’t care much if students learn anything of value have decided to teach to the test; students learn the few idiosyncratic topics discussed without garnering any of the analytical or critical thinking skills needed to actually reason through anything.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the states in the Deep South care at all about public education. If there was a referendum to eliminate ALL education funding in my state, it would easily pass. I’m not saying that that’s good or bad; I’m saying that that’s the way it is. For people in other regions to transfer their hard-earned money down here and assume that, all of a sudden, we’re gonna care, fine. We’ll take your money, and that way we don’t have to tax ourselves. So your schools get worse, and ours stay ineffective.

In South Carolina, in 2008, 81% of public schools failed the state standards. So, what did they do? They revised the standards (I guess that they now grade on a curve) so that only 40% failed. Here, where federal funding was threatened because the high school graduation rate was so low, we decided to change the rules so that students could get a high school diploma by taking a general reading and math class at some point in their high school career. They then get a general diploma which signals employers that they have no usable skills, but the state still gets its money.

So now, Duncan is proposing that arts education, including physical education, also be tested. Well, now you’re in our wheelhouse. We can just have some students paint something, or sing a song, and we’re home free. Let alone, this helps us with a difficult problem with teacher’s salaries. You see, down here the starting salary for a math teacher is the munificent sum of $25,000 per year. But a football coaching job starts at around $60,000, even if they don’t teach a single class. So now, we’ll be able to pay for something that we really care about. Thank you.