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Obama Picks NCLB Supporter to Be Education Secretary

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In picking Arne Duncan to be secretary of education, President-elect Barack Obama will have a fan of the No Child Left Behind Act running the U.S. Department of Education. Read about it on the Campaign K-12 blog.

Chicago "has been innovative in adapting NCLB’s school improvement framework to re-enforce our efforts," the city schools CEO told the House education committee in 2006.

Earlier this year, he spoke favorably of the law to the House Education and Labor Committee. Here's his written testimony, which is light on praise for NCLB. If you want to hear Duncan speak his mind during the Q&A with committee members, you can watch the video available on this site.

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For more than 40 years, in books, journal articles, and newspaper columns, I've argued that the "core curriculum" was lousy when it was adopted in 1892, and becomes more dysfunctional with each passing year.

No one disputes my contention, but neither has anybody in a position of authority seemed the least concerned, much less interested in dealing with the problems.

Here are some of my beefs: The general education curriculum has no overarching aim. No guidelines suggest which new knowledge should be taught, or which old knowledge it’s acceptable to omit. The world the curriculum is supposed to explain is dynamic and constantly changing, but no built-in mechanisms force the curriculum to adapt. Information is dumped on learners in volumes and at velocities far beyond even the best student’s ability to cope. The brain needs order, the curriculum gives it randomness. Study doesn’t move smoothly through ever-increasing levels of conceptual difficulty. Complex moral and ethical dilemmas are ignored. Abstract ideas unrelated to experience are stuffed into short-term memory and quickly disappear. Thought processes other than recall get little or no attention. The standardized tests used to measure performance penalize the culturally different and the poor. The separate-subject approach to instruction denies the seamless, mutually supportive nature of knowledge. Because creativity, tenacity, curiosity, and other important abilities and traits can’t be evaluated by machines, little effort is made to teach or reinforce them.” (I could go on.)

If you don't agree, cross out those you think aren't valid, then tell me if you think it's acceptable to impose on kids a curriculum suffering from those items you didn't cross out.

Marion Brady

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