Mosher: Suffer, little children

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<p>Chip Mosher (Portrait by Jeferson Applegate)</p>

Isn’t it ironic that the socialist takeover of our public schools (No Child Left Behind, 2002) was the brainchild of Republican President George W. Bush? What’s the old saying about liberal wolves in conservative sheep’s clothing?

NCLB was a power grab the likes of which has rarely been seen in America. Education writer Diane Ravitch has called it “the largest transference of public money to the private sector in history.”

Oddly, this reform movement has had little to do with legitimate academic solutions to educational problems. According to Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, for example, has systematically co-opted public education by “plowing billions into K-12 reform in the last decade” to reportedly garner “decisive influence” in the sphere of education funding.

Bill Gates makes what? Schools should have plenty of what? Ah, software for computers.

Creating business is about controlling the dialogue — often through the prestidigitation of propaganda. And that, pretty much, has been what “education reform” has been all about — big business. But, in the process, it has promoted bad educational policies.

Take Nevada, for instance. Before these reforms, our state admirably often ranked in the middle of national academic statistics despite always ranking near the bottom in per-pupil spending. Sadly, the main economic engine of our wealthy state, the casino industry, has never been willing to pay its fair share for education.

“Fuck da kids in Nevada,” our casino corporations have seemed to be saying with, at 6.75 percent, the lowest gaming-tax rate in the world. “We’ll just strip-mine the money here and invest it in Communist China, where we’ll happily pay almost 40 percent in taxes to support its children’s schools.”

Now, after 11 years of reform, Nevada has fallen from the middle to the bottom in nearly every national academic category. Lowest graduation rates, lowest test scores, etc. And, without truly understanding what all that means, the local media, politicians and business crowd have had a field day vilifying dedicated educators because of this.

But what do such bleak statistics really signify?

Well, for one thing, they reveal that the reform movement has failed to deliver on its promise to improve our schools. In fact, quite the opposite. By constantly threatening the livelihoods of teachers nationally, the reformists have, predictably, created academic environments that reportedly have fostered widespread cheating scandals in places such as Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Philadelphia and elsewhere.

Perhaps Nevada’s sudden fall to the bottom has been because very little cheating has occurred here. Thus, maybe Nevada has been wrongfully maligned when compared to other states, for failing to jump on the reformist bandwagon by cheating and cooking the books.

True, the Clark County School District’s most recent reformer, former Superintendent Dwight Jones, did get caught by officials for seemingly inflating graduation rates. But he eventually resigned amid other controversies. However, with people such as him gone, academic gains here could continue to remain unremarkable when compared to suspicious statistics in other states — as our local schools hopefully return to scholastic honesty and integrity in the face of the reform madness gripping the rest of the country.

Nonetheless, it is far better to be at the bottom of the heap with one’s dignity intact than at the top surrounded by lies and deception. Just ask Socrates or Jesus, two pretty good teachers vilified by the reformists of their day.

CHIP MOSHER is a simple classroom teacher.