No Secretary Left Behind

I’m sorry, but I got a huge kick out of watching Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings get trounced up, down, backwards and forwards on Celebrity Jeopardy! yesterday by the actor Michael McKean. (I’ll refrain from Hollywood vs. Bush administration jokes.) McKean ended the game with the highest total of any of the celebrity contestants so far (he really was quite good, maybe even good enough for regular Jeopardy!), while the Secretary ended with a below-average $8000 or so.

I probably shouldn’t be quite so gleeful, but this is the woman who “helped craft the No Child Left Behind Act,” according to her introduction on Jeopardy! — some of the dirtiest words in a teacher’s vocabulary, since it has thoroughly been a disaster. She is also the overseer of the Spellings Report, which calls for an expansion of NCLB into colleges. Specifically, she wants to see exit exams at state schools to be sure that students are all learning the same thing in college. I realize I’ve only been a college instructor for three semesters, but I can already see what a nightmare that would be. My students tell me all the time how grateful they are to learn concepts and not memorization, to have the freedom to actually delve into topics instead of just learning what’s going to be on a test, and so forth. The stifling and completely uncreative environment at most high schools, not to mention that it’s totally unchallenging intellectually, is, according to students and teachers alike, a direct result of NCLB. Don’t bring that into my classroom, Madam Secretary. We certainly don’t need it.

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