Many Children Left Behind

Reading this collection of essays; particularly striking were several of the assertions in Deborah Meier’s piece on democracy:

We need school where strong cross-generational relationships can be built around matters of importance to the world. Schools cannot do it alone — kids also need other non-school communities — but creating such schools is a necessary start. These schools can exist only in communities that trust them. There is no shortcut. The authority needed to do the job requires trust. Trusting our schools cannot be a long-term goal in some utopian vision. If you don’t trust the babysitter, no accountability scheme will make it safe to leave your child in her hands tonight. The only alternative is to stay home.

The business world offers little guidance in this task (to build trust/community/democracy). The ways of business hardly work for business, where “buyer beware” is the primary response to demands of accountability.

There will be acrimony and there will be local fights (if we can return democracy to schools). Hurrah, not alas. It is the habits of mind necessary for practicing and resolving disagreement — the mental toughness that democracy rests on — that kids most need to learn about in school. If we all agreed about everything, we wouldn’t need democracy; we wouldn’t need to learn how people work out differences.

Meier, Deborah. “NCLB and Democracy.” In Many Children Left Behind: How the No Child Left Behind Act is Damaging our Children and our Schools, edited by Deborah Meier and George H. Wood. Boston: Beacon Press, 2004.

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