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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: February 11, 2006
Latest Update: February 11, 2006

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Index of Topics on Site No Child Left Behind Suffering from Unstated Assumptions of Public Incompetence as Opposed to Indivdual Profit-Seeking

This lecture was prompted by Susan Saulny's "Tutor Program Offered by Law Is Going Unused: Free for Failing Schools," on the front page of the New York Times on Sunday, February 12, 2006. Backup.

People complain about government service. It takes too long. Employees aren't as motivated. Civil service doesn't demand as much as industry.

Consider the current ad on TV in which three corporate guys watch from their executive suite window as three street maintenance workers drill watch one of them drilling on the sidewalk below. "Isn't that just like government," one of them says, "three workers stand around while one of them works. That would never cut it in the corporate world." They're eating chips and dip while they're watching, in an ad for the dip, or the chips. Then their female co-worker exclaims that she has solved the computer problem "they" were working on. They come over to her and congratulate themselves on "their" hard work, and the young woman gives a "knowing" sneer.

I've been worrying since this ad started to appear that too many people were going to think it's a gender innuendo. Maybe it is. But more importantly today, it's a snipe at the "worker" and at the public worker specifically. Where is public administration in this war against the worker? Why arent' they and labor working harder to stop these impressions. No one believes that Mohammed is a terrorist. But we're having riots globally because cartoons implied that. But lots of people believe what the ad tells them to believe about public workers. It reinfroces low-level white collar management's perception of public management. It ain't funny. It's sick. And we need to become aware of these attacks on blue collar workers, and wonder just how funny it is if it encourages prejudice against labor.

Unstated Assumptions

  • "In failing districts, the law required the tutoring to come from outside groups on the theory that they could do a better job than the schools that were failing in the first place. . . . "

    Wicked little unstated assumption here that the cause of the failure is the inadequacy of the teachers and/or administration, so that outside groups (privatization) has been mandated. Los Angeles hired a private corporation to teach reading to its students ten or fifteen years ago. The Los Angeles Times reported the results with a headline that suggested these students would never get a job because the corporation gave up in failure. Unstated assumption: that all presently in the work force can read effectively, indicating that there is a causal factor between ability to read and ability to get and hold down a job.

  • "I think there's a real learning curve on this because it's so different from what has come before," says an evaluator of the program for the department of education official.

    Good point in evaluation. People do need time to adjust to new programs. But meanwhile, although evaluators recognize the problem, the administration iat the federal level and at the local levels has put into place the punishments ordained by the program without allowing the students and parents time to put the mandated tutoring into place. Students in Los Angeles County are being prevented from graduation by the algebra requirement, even though the tutoring that it has been assumed would help them is not in place.

  • We have no evidence that the tutoring would, in fact, work. That is another unstated assumption on which the program was based. How are the tutors to be held accountable if we can't even disseminate effectively word that tutoring is available, especially in district schools where there is a long tradition of books and materials not being available?

    Another assumption here is that the same amount of money and effort put into small group tutoring and text book availability wouldn't have prevented the failures in the first place.

Assumptions such as these fit into the "silent father frame" described by Lakoff, that suggests that the silent father "knows best" for all, and doesn't need to show research taht supports his validity claim to "knwing best." The primary assumption is that the successful silent father can get whatever he deems necessary by paying for it in the market place. Privatization is seen as an answer to everything. Public administration is seen as the underlying fault for everything.

Of course, when the silent father deems that the schools that have failed must pay for private tutoring, there still has to be government or public money to pay the corporations that are to do the tutoring. Duh! But that's OK spending for the government.

If I'm right about defining the frame which underlies the No Child Left Behind program, then one of the major decisions we all have to make is whether individuals are to be seen as more competent at producing profit for themselves (profit which is not mandated to return any portion of the fruits of that labor of producing profit back to the community- off shore incorporation avoids income taxes, even) than the community at large would be producing some successes for which profit is not the primary indicator.

You have to bear in mind that we have come in the U.S. to regard profit as success. And in recent times we've come to regard conspicous consumption and commodification as a valid, albeit superficial, measure of that success. But then, we don't have immediate access to people's bank balance, and not all profits are easily traceable, at least not in the Cayman Islands or the other off-shore banks.

As you struggle with these issues, the arguments I've given just scratch the surface. For further development of the problems presented by the standardized testing of the No Child Left Behind program,

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