Sunday, November 13, 2005

What’s wrong with NCLB
   

What’s wrong with NCLB is what’s always wrong with school. It’s the product of the timid and colorless imaginations of middle-aged or older functionaries who have risen to positions of eminence by stifling the heroic spirit that so easily gets one in trouble. If J. Alfred Prufrock ("Do I dare to eat a peach?") had been put in charge of teaching the nation’s young people what they need to feel and know to live in the world that’s forming and reforming around them like a kaleidoscope of blood-red and Eden-green moments, I doubt he would have done much worse than NCLB.

I admit that my antipathy is somewhat childish. I didn’t like school, and I remember clearly the boredom I felt when unheroic functionaries who imagined I might care about their timid and colorless plans for me tried to give me advice. What did they know? I was poor, ignorant and stupid, but not so stupid that I couldn’t see that life was dangerous, fully charged with potential for ecstacy and for despair, and that to get through the day I needed better help than little cost/benefit thoughts and blather about the global economy.

It’s not possible to live well without a heroic spirit, and kids need advice and encouragement about how to live heroically. Getting a few more points on a standardized test doesn’t do it. NCLB is full of threats to school administrators, but it’s completely void of promises to young people.

The solution is not a big plan backed by lots of Senators, but lots of little acts of passion. I suggest reading a poem each day by a man who did hear the mermaids singing to him--William Butler Yeats:

The Scholars

Bald heads, forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love’s despair
To flatter beauty’s ignorant ear.

All shuffle there, all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk their way?

-- William Butler Yeats


Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 11/13 at 03:40 PM
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