Misleading the Young

CNN.com recently reported that a high school principal in Santa Ana , California , sent a memo to her staff, requesting that grades for 98 failing seniors be 'reconsidered.' She cited compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act as her driving necessity. However, she should have checked with her guidance department before sending out the memo; it turns out her school needs to graduate only 82.8% if its seniors. The graduation rate for this year's senior class is 84%. Whew! At least for another year, the bacon will keep rolling in from DC.

Without a doubt, the principal is the bad guy. She's a manipulator, a fraud, and probably evil to the core. She attempted to violate the trust that exists between a school and the community it is purported to serve, not to mention the tax-paying citizens of these Yoo-nited States of America ! If she succeeded in pulling this little scheme off, it would have been the same as taking money from hard-working good peoples from all over this country. Amen to the patriotic soul that, in the end, upheld the integrity of a law intended to promote the interests of children.

Obviously providing cover for the school district, Superintendent Al Mijares, quoted in the CNN article, said, 'Principals and teachers are expected to hold the line with regards to grades that are necessary to the high school diploma, and under no circumstances will teachers be pressured to change a grade.' Also noted was the school board president, who said she needed more information about the principal, 'the incident, and her leadership of the school before determining whether discipline was necessary.'

No doubt the principal is to be the whipping boy for this fiasco. The article's tone and the administrators cited make that perfectly clear. She has given administrators a public relations nightmare and has raised a giant red flag over the district that can be seen from the heart of the Evil Empire. Somehow, she'll have to pay a price, if for no other reason than district administrators must demonstrate the will to 'do something' to prevent such behavior in the future; not to mention, preempting the iron heel of Washington's education establishment coming down on the back of the district's neck in retribution for trying to make the feds look like a bunch of chumps.

But is the principal the villain in this latest episode of state-regulated education? Why are those concerned so quick to hang her out to dry?

The principal in this situation was just behaving like any student pressured to get good grades or suffer the loss of driving privileges as punishment for failure to meet mom and dad's standard of acceptability. In her case, she was doing what she thought was necessary to keep the federal gravy train rumbling through her district's coffers. If somebody had not blown the whistle on her, the school board and the superintendent would not give a hoot how she was doing her job, so long as that 82.8% graduation rate was being met. I wouldn't be surprised if, as part of her 'disciplinary' process, she is privately counseled to refrain from issuing troubling, though realistic, memos in the future.

Cheating and engaging in other nefarious activities to get ahead are nothing new in school. Because of technology, the methods used are just more sophisticated. As a teacher, I chuckle with admiration when I hear how kids use cell phones and other electronic gizmos to gain an advantage over their environment. Whatever roadblocks the system devises to contain kids, the kids always prove adept at beating the system, even using the system against itself.

When teachers, principals, and other adults 'cheat,' they are just engaging in a higher order of the same process as kids. They do not use cell phones and iPods; they use formal procedures and laws. Rules and regulations are manipulated so that actions fall within the parameters established by law . . . or do not. Until someone gets leaned on, the whole machine just keeps chugging along.

The real problem here is that sinister declaration by Caesar, the No Child Left Behind Act. We've heard about incidents where administrators have conspired to change test scores, or helped students complete standardized tests. Why? Because penalties (loss of funding) were attached to poor performance according to guidelines dictated by NCLB. This principal in Santa Ana is just the latest example of how the evil hand continues to corrupt people and communities across this country. Education, commerce, banking, social intercourse, you name it and the state does everything it can to screw up the natural miracles that happen every day among self-interested individuals and groups.

Rather than labeling these few individuals as examples of the corruption in the state-regulated public education system, we should commend them as unknowing expositors of the inherent evils of the No Child Left Behind Act. They may not have known what they were doing, but they all gave us more proof of the corrupting influence of the state. They demonstrated how the state uses an insidious law, hidden behind a compassionate-sounding and nurturing moniker, to get to America 's kids for its own ends.

Recent internet posts by Jacob Hornberger, Steven LaTulippe, and Marsha Sutton remind us how Rome is using the NCLB as a means to build a database for recruiting and maybe even preparation for a coming military draft.

I first heard of this about a year and a half ago but did not think much of it. A few months later, I was reading an article that discussed how the military was using the NCLB to get personal information on kids in high schools throughout the country.

The schools are in a catch-22 situation; because they take money from the feds, or money funneled through their state by the feds, they have to allow the feds access to a potential slave army, if that's what the feds want. The law does allow a way out, but it's up to the student/parents to request that the student's name be removed from the recruiter's list. Needless to say, in more gung-ho and jar-headish parts of the country, high school students and their parents are not likely to get such information voluntarily divulged to them.

Well, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I marched straight to the office to place an important message in the student section of the daily announcements: I was going to inform every student in the school exactly what their fate could be unless they took action to protect themselves from a ravenous government.

I was counting on the secretary typing every word blindly, and she delivered. It was mid-April and when filling in the 'END DATE' line, I entered the last day of school. I wanted this message read every day for the next five weeks. To the best of my memory, here's the content of my message to the high school student body:






As I was told, when the announcements were read the next day, classes full of students looked up in unison as my entry was read over the PA system. No one knew what to make of it. Many thought it was a joke. It was never read again. I was not even there to enjoy that instance of civil disobedience; I was interviewing for the position I now hold. It's all in the past now, but I still tell that story and inform my students directly about what evils lurk in the No Child Left Behind Act, as well as all federal and state dictates. It's just one small part of the trash-the-state curriculum I share with my students (all in accordance with the broad standards devised by the state of Arizona and my district, of course).

Thomas Sowell once said: 'There are few things more dishonorable than misleading the young.' The No Child Left Behind Act does that and more. But, then again, what else could we ever expect from the state?

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Harry Goslin lives in eastern Arizona.