Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Defeating NCLB and the campaign of Movement Conservatives

Defeating NCLB and the Campaign of Movement Conservatives which produced it (NCLB)
Kenneth Goodman
In Saving Our Schools (2004, RDR Books), I outlined how movement conservatism is organized with the methods and morality of a long range political campaign. NCLB is the key result of such a campaign. Its long range goal is. to privatize education. Those in control of the campaign have been able to strongly influence the policies of both the Republicans and the Democrats. NCLB was presented as a major educational reform by newly elected George W. Bush on September 11, 2001. The Reading Excellence Act which preceded NCLB and mandated the narrow reading focus carried forward in NCLB was passed under the Clinton administration. Andy Rotherham who presents himself as a neo-liberal was the author of the Kerry education platform which strongly supported NCLB. The money and political clout of the campaign comes from the National Business Roundtable and various conservative foundations. Their political power makes it possible to use NICHD, and various scientific groups as covers for the National Reading panel and the Snow Group reports and to control the press treatment of NCLB and related aspects of the campaign. There is no difference between neo-liberals and neo-cons in their attitudes about public education.

David Berliner in his new book with Sharon Nichols, Collatoral Damage, How High Stakes Tesiting Corrupts America's Schools (Harvard Education Press, 2007), has documented a remarkable switch in the press focus on education that happened abruptly in the '90s. Up to a particular point, press reports dealt primarily with failures of government to provide equal access and equal educational opportunities for the nation's children and paricularly minorities. Suddenly the coverage shifted to concern about outcomes and failures of the schools to achieve universal success in learning. This reached its peak in the passage of NCLB with its impossible goal of reaching excellence for all in math, reaidng, and science by 2014 through punishing states, districts and schools that are not successful. Only a very powerful campaign could have so controlled the press across the nation.

The key thing to understand is that in movement conservatism a small, well-connected, highly funded, totally amoral and very intelligent group orchestrate and control a campaign which uses many disparate groups who don't even know they are being used by the campaign- in fact they are led to believe that they are using the campaign.

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