Goals 2000 and “Childish Things”

Does anyone remember the Educate America Act, aka Goals 2000, signed into law on March 31, 1994 by President Bill Clinton? Probably not. Do you remember your New Years Resolutions of that same year? You may be like me and you stopped making such lists when you became an adult and knew yourself well enough to know that whatever you resolved to do on January 1 would be light years away from your actually doing it just one calendar year later.

I summarize the Goals below because they’re still on too many of our wish lists of things we would like to happen. In fact these or something much like them were very much on the minds of two (child-) adults, George Bush and Ted Kennedy, when they, surprisingly together, fashioned the NCLB Law of 2001. And similar goals are still very much a part of the thinking of another two (child-) adults Barack Obama and his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan.

“Dear Santa,’ they now might write, “here’s what we’d like for Christmas, and we’ll be very good while waiting for Christmas Day to arrive.”

That (Wikipedia.org):

  • All children in America will start school ready to learn.
  • The high school graduation rate will increase to at least 90 percent.
  • All students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, the arts, history, and geography, and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our nation’s modern economy.
  • United States students will be first in the world in mathematics and science achievement.
  • Every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
  • Every school in the United States will be free of drugs, violence, and the unauthorized presence of firearms and alcohol and will offer a disciplined environment conducive to learning.
  • The nation’s teaching force will have access to programs for the continued improvement of their professional skills and the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to instruct and prepare all American students for the next century.
  • School will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children.

Now what’s wrong with doing this sort of thing, making resolutions, wishes, etc.?  Are we hurting anything or anyone by doing so? Well it may be true that we’d like to have goals like these for our own children, for “unless a man’s reach should exceed his grasp…” But, for the country’s schools?

I can’t help but thinking that we might be better off, meaning a bit closer to solving real problems —the fact, for example, and as everyone probably agrees, that our public schools fail large numbers of children and don’t prepare them for skilled jobs and fulfilling lives— if we were to put away childish ways, no longer thinking like children in respect to what schools can and cannot accomplish, if we were to put “Goals 2000” thinking light years behind us and as adults move on.

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