No Black or Poor Child Left Behind

Every year on July 4th Americans celebrate its achievements as a country since breaking away from the Brits way back in the day.

Public education was "suppose" to be one of the hallmarks of this great nation, however, it has been in deterioration for the last 40 years, due to the shifts and racial and class structures in America's inner cities.

But something went horribly wrong in 2002 when President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act, which has only made the deterioration happen quicker.

Independent Presidential nominee Ralph Nader (yes, he is still in the race) got into some hot water last week when he called out Barack Obama for not being black enough.

From The Rocky Mountain News:

"I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law," Nader said. "Haven't heard a thing."

While I think it was a bit of a stretch to play the race card with Obama, Nader does bring up a larger problem with the Obama campaign and politicians in general - if you are a racial minority and/or poor in America, you have to fend for yourself, especially when it comes to education. Lets face it; no one is working on your behalf.

I finally got to see this great HBO documentary the other day, Hard Times at Douglas High: A No Child Left Behind Report Card. The directors spent a year documenting students, staff and teacher at the beleaguered Baltimore high school, giving a vivid overview of what's wrong with NCLB. The film is reminicent of the forth season of the dearly departed drama, The Wire. Even one of the students featured in the film seems to resemble popular character Snoop.

After watching the doc, you have to wonder if public education in this country was better, we could have less Stringer Bells and Avon Barksdales in the world.

From the HBO film synopsis:

...Douglass principal Isabelle Grant oversees a staff of teachers that is two-thirds non-certified, while many are substitutes unqualified to teach their subject areas. Threatened with sanctions, or even closing, unless student scores improve in annual standardized tests, the faculty tries to find workable solutions to chronic problems of attendance, lateness and apathy among students, many of whom come from poor backgrounds and broken homes, and lack the most basic reading and math skills.

Due to an achievement gap of four to five years below grade level, ninth grade students present the greatest challenge, requiring intensive intervention by the already overwhelmed teaching staff. By the end of the school year, 50% will drop out. Grant and her staff struggle to raise state assessment scores as a Maryland State monitor continually watches over Douglass with the threat of a state takeover...

Eventually, Douglass fails to make the adequate yearly progress required by the No Child Left Behind Act and the city and state wrestle for control of the school. This is typical of inner-city schools that cannot meet the demands of the federal law. By 2007 one in four of the nation's public schools failed to show improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act and was threatened with sanctions...

God bless America!

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