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February 23, 2012

HARBESON: Leaving behind No Child Left Behind

CLARK COUNTY — It’s not necessary to be as clever as Sherlock Holmes, or for that matter to even use a magnifying glass, to clearly see that the No Child Left Behind Act was a misguided idea.

The passage of NCLB is one of the most uneducated decisions ever made by a group of politicians. And that’s saying a lot.

The clues that something was very, very wrong were there from the start and you didn’t even have to know the law’s details to figure this out. The very name provided the first clue.

Topping that off was the fact that Republican President George W. Bush pushed this increased federal involvement in education and worked with Democrat Ted Kennedy to make this political deal happen. This clue that something was amiss was more obvious than personally witnessing Colonel Mustard in the parlor whacking his victim on the head with the candlestick.

But of course the NCLB mess is exactly what “bipartisanship,” “compromise” and “working together” through the force of government will get you.

It was easy to figure out if you bothered to do the math. After all, when you take two political parties and add them together it does not equal smart, or even proficient. It only adds up to coercion.

These politicians actually behaved as if all they had to do is write stuff down on paper, throw in government force and the individual differences between human beings in ability, interests and motivation would disappear — if not immediately then certainly by 2014.

In reality though, the main thing the government mandates are accomplishing is to create a further perversion of education which is interfering tremendously with the natural learning ability and potential that exists within each individual child. Government mandates stifle creativity, innovation and do nothing to stimulate and encourage natural curiosity.

Since the passage of the legislation, there have been a few grumblings about NCLB. But now that the year of reckoning, 2014, is within the mathematical abilities of your average politician, the grumblings are getting even louder because they can see the trap they set for themselves.

Everyone is starting to run as fast as they can to get away from the federal government mandates. Or at least that’s what the various levels of government want us to think. But is that true?

Yes, the federal government, under the direction of the Obama administration, is now granting waivers to release states from NCLB mandates. And yes, Indiana has been granted one of these waivers. But what does this really mean?

Is Indiana being released because the state is already doing exactly what the federal government wants them to do in regards to controlling the education of the individual? The following may provide a clue — when Gov. Mitch Daniels heard that Indiana was granted a waiver, he said, “We have been closely aligned with the Obama administration on many elements of education reform.”

Does Daniels say this with any regret, apology or hesitation? No, he says this with pleasure and pride. So has Indiana been excused from the dinner table simply because it has already willingly swallowed everything the federal government and the Obama administration wanted Indiana to eat in the first place?

If Indiana is doing exactly what the federal government wants it to do, what are the implications? Will there be unintended consequences? Clearly standards and practices that meet federal government approval provides a strong clue that this situation is troubling and worth further investigation under the magnifying glass.

Unlike Daniels, I feel no pleasure at all in hearing that Indiana meets with the approval of the federal government. But then again, I do not accept any level of government control in education because that is the very antithesis of individual freedom.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson has been searching for a politician who has a clue but has not been able to find one. Write to her at Debbie@debbieharbeson.com.

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