Bill Murchison

My goodness, it's just one favor after another the U.S. government wants to do for us.

By week's end, the president and his minions hope to have bought, embarrassed or intimidated enough fellow Democrats into passing, at long last, health care "reform." In the meantime, the White House lets us know it wants action on new national approaches to educational improvement. It just never seems to stop, this business of bringing the whole business of the United States under federal supervision.

Given President Obama's habit of imputing to George W. Bush responsibility for most of what's wrong today, it's interesting to note how Obama deals with the No Child Left Behind Act, whose approval Bush procured. He sees the act's impending expiration not as goodbye to a political delusion but rather as an opportunity to put his personal stamp on that delusion. One can hardly wait.

What Obama wants is, by his lights, more creative approaches to educational "improvement." Specifically, he calls for new ways of measuring academic improvement in America's public schools. States would be ordered to categorize their schools as high-performing, failing or in-between, with emphasis moved from the testing of math and reading to the shaping of incentives and rewards for schools that turn out college- or career-ready graduates.

Sean Hannity FREE

It is not that many would call the original, now-expiring, No Child Left Behind Act a pearl beyond price, gleaming and untouchable by mortal hands. The act seems to have resulted in, among other things, a philosophy among educators of "teaching to the test" in math and reading, to the impairment of such disciplines as art and music. Nor does its stated goal of boosting every child to proficiency in math and reading seem remotely in sight: not when tests can be dumbed down and results manipulated.

Couldn't we, in consequence, as children used to say on the playground swing, just "let the cat die" -- let NCLB just go away? Not with the political appetite for top-down control continuing to build under Obama. We're not about to try not letting the federal government try anymore. We're getting ready, if the administration has its way, to devise better top-down methods.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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