Soldiers by the Sixth Grade

It seems that every time I go to church choir [this is once a week, on Thursdays], I end up talking to the choir director, who moonlights as the director of the music program for one the local school districts, about all that I find wrong in the world. Usuaully it’s secondary education that upsets me most — especially when there’s an educator nearby.

No Child Left Behind [PDF here] (NCLB) has already upset, as you might remember, because it very blindly replaced all the social, emotional, and physical and health education out of the Jump Start legislation organized by some very well-meaning and pretty smart people in the 1950s with a single word: literacy. This law is was just a clever political move. Give the public something they can hold onto, repeat quickly, and give it a name that sounds pleasant. I won’t rant about the artificial metrics the law forces on schools, or how these exams cannot be compared from state to state, and why the underlying principle of it is “Oh, yeah, you’re sick, huh? Well, you can’t have any medicine until you’re better.” Much like the abortion bill in South Dakota, NCLB lacks any foresight and doesn’t consider the consequences. But instead of being four pages, it’s 670.

And if you look on page 559, you will find the heading for SEC. 9528. Armed Forces Recruiter Access to Students and Student Recruiting Information. There you will find tucked away very neatly a most disturbing consequence of this bill. Looks like someone was planning ahead after all:

“[E]ach local educational agency receiving assistance under this Act
shall provide, on a request made by military recruiters or an institution of higher education, access to secondary school students names, addresses, and telephone listings.”

This sort of thing happens all the time at colleges and universities. And sure, that almost makes sense. After all, kids there have gone through most of the developmental processes that deem them a functioning, thinking adult. Remember last summer when I almost took a commission in the navy to train nuclear engineers for subs and carriers? Well, while it’s hard to defend the military’s right to know my name and number, it’s almost undensible to do the same with sixth graders. And don’t think that because you’re at a private or religious school you’re not effected. There’s a good chance you are. I’d suggest that parents read subsection (c) and check with their kids’ schools.

My favorite part of this section comes last. Connecticut has consistently been a thorn in the Secretary of Education’s side. Last last summer, the state sued because the Secretary refused to grant a waiver for annual testing made mandatory by NCLB. Connecticut has had state-wide testing long before Bush came around. They had done such unreasonable things as wait until ESL students learn some English before forcing them to take the test, which, by the way, is conducted in English. The Department of Education didn’t like that and so denied them the waiver, requiring the state to spend millions just to develop the test in what would be over 150 languages. Throw in costs to administer and grade the things, and we’re talking several times what it costs to run an entire, medium-sized school district. I haven’t heard anything since last Connecticut’s case since last summer. I’d be curious to know if anyone else knows what’s happened since.

Anyway, I’m thinking about marching down to my old high school to ask if they’ve passed out a form for parents to easily refuse consent. Tonight’s after-choir conversation almost got me riled up enough to start an after-school math tutoring program there voluntarily. But then again, I might get for the city of Cambridge to do exactly the same thing. I’ll wait until after I receive an email.