The words should set off an alarm. While it is national policy to require "research-based" planning and purchasing, the term is bandied about with such reckless abandon that is rapidly coming to mean very little.
How could this be?
After decades of taking a relatively low profile regarding educational issues, the Ed Department has become the bastion of ideologues who have dramatic policy agendas they intend to impose across the nation.
At times the Ed Department uses the term "research-based" as a club to enforce directives and limit choices, as it did when it vetoed the reading program selected by the New York City Schools. See article "Beltway Bosses: It's Beltway or the Highway - DC Reading Bosses Dictate Programs for the Big Apple."
At other times, when truly "research-based" findings prove inconvenient or uncooperative, the Ed Department proceeds by fudging and misreporting the research, as it did with the issue of teacher certification, or it simply forges ahead without any research basis at all.
See article "Not One Dime!"
See article "Fuzzy Math, Fuzzy Reading and Fuzzy Science"
||The insistence on so-called "research-based" planning and purchasing imposes a kind of blindness upon leaders.
We end up doing what is easy to study.
We end up buying products from huge companies who could afford to do studies (and own testing companies).
We narrow focus.
We treat students like widgets and hamburgers.
We miss the point.
We avoid the magical, the majestic and the truly inspirational.
Do As I Say, Not As I Do!
While the Ed Department is quick to impose so-called "research-based" planning and purchasing" on public schools, it is quicker to exempt its own pet projects and pets from such scientific thinking or judgment.
To give credit where credit is due, this administration has taken this same opportunistic approach to science in so many aspects of public policy that leading scientists across many fields have joined together to protest the blatant politicization of science.
"Preeminent Scientists Protest Bush Administration's Misuse of Science"
- Washington, D.C.Today, more than 60 leading scientistsincluding Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, former federal agency directors and university chairs and presidentsissued a statement calling for regulatory and legislative action to restore scientific integrity to federal policymaking. According to the scientists, the Bush administration has, among other abuses, suppressed and distorted scientific analysis from federal agencies, and taken actions that have undermined the quality of scientific advisory panels.
Across a broad range of issues, the administration has undermined the quality of the scientific advisory system and the morale of the governments outstanding scientific personnel, said Dr. Kurt Gottfried, emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University and Chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Whether the issue is lead paint, clean air or climate change, this behavior has serious consequences for all Americans.
We are seeing cynical misinformation and propaganda masquerading as science.
Sadly, there are too few voices challenging the Big Brother distortion of truth. Unfortunately, leaders of both political parties have climbed aboard this NCLB bandwagon and seem oblivious to the damage being done to schools and children in its name.
The Wages of Sin
When you tilt schools and education in the direction of those things most easily studied and measured, you impose a kind of starvation that is difficult to notice at first. It may take a decade or more before the negative consequences of NCLB become evident, especially since the most extreme impacts will fall, as they often do, on the very children and the families who can least afford the damage - those who attend the most disadvantaged of our schools.
While NCLB promises such families escape from supposedly incompetent, bungling bureaucrats and teachers who are portrayed as hopeless, mere movement of such children to other schools and programs does not work any miracles in itself, as is outlined in a companion article this month - "Charting (and Spinning) a Wasteful Course."
Words of Mass Deception
History will eventually show that NCLB is a fraud - a social policy that is flawed at its roots and damaging in its impacts, a huge experiment with the futures of our children that is based on conjecture, wishful thinking and right wing ideology. While the words and the promises seem appealing at first blush, the hidden agendas embedded in NCLB (privatization, choice and the destruction of the public schools) amount to something quite different from those words and promises.