Invitation to a Dialogue: A Student’s Call to Arms
Published: October 9, 2012
When President George W. Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law, few would have predicted that the next decade of education policy would unfold into a disaster of epic proportions. The law was based on a flawed concept of a “good education” — high scores on standardized tests.
As a result, the curriculum was narrowed, shaving instruction time in the arts, music, science and history. Schools were transformed into test-preparation factories with a stress on drill, kill, bubble-fill methods. And ruthless accountability measures were enacted, with bribes and threats at their core. It’s safe to say that the law has failed miserably.
Yet when President Obama came into office, he enacted Race to the Top, a $4.35 billion competition that dished out money to states that adopted the president’s policies. In effect, it was No Child Left Behind on steroids. The pressure to garner high test scores has gone haywire, the number of cheating scandals has mushroomed and the teaching profession has been dehumanized. Enough is enough.
In this election cycle, both Mitt Romney and President Obama have largely ducked the issue. Instead of proposing a bold, game-changing plan to transform schools for the 21st century, they remain stubbornly fixed on the status quo. We cannot afford to lose yet another decade of precious time and resources. Reforms are not enough; only a revolution will suffice.
As a student, I want to be taught how to think and create and explore. I’m not a number in a spreadsheet; I’m a creative and motivated human being. I want my teachers to be paid well, given autonomy and treated like professionals. I want my school to be adequately funded. Is that too much to ask?
If either candidate called for the repeal of No Child Left Behind and the abolition of Race to the Top, and pushed schools to allow students to become the captains of their learning, he would find millions of teachers, parents and young people at his side.
Syosset, N.Y., Oct. 8, 2012
The writer is a high school senior and the author of the book “One Size Does Not Fit All: A Student’s Assessment of School.”
Editors’ Note: We invite readers to respond by Thursday for the Sunday Dialogue. We plan to publish responses and Mr. Goyal’s rejoinder in the Sunday Review. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org