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Volume II, Number 1, January, 2004

Hamburger anybody? Let them eat meat!

In contrast, the administration has rushed into dangerous and unproven change strategies for the nation's schools that are rooted in excessive regulation and federal interference, even though there is gathering evidence that NCLB's focus on high stakes testing is likely to damage education as we know it and push millions of students onto the streets prematurely - failures of a system that has spun out of control.

Click to see the January cartoon.

Mad Cow, NCLB, Duplicity and Hypocrisy

By Jamie McKenzie (about author)

© 2003, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved

They say one thing but do another.

They regulate schools in a heavy-handed, authoritarian manner while allowing the meat-packing industry latitude that is irresponsible and dangerous.

Reluctant to regulate business, the current administration in Washington wasted several years waiting for catastrophe to happen before eliminating downer cows from the food chain and taking other steps Europe had adopted in the wake of the British mad cow epidemic.

For more detailed analysis read Mad Cow USA: The Nightmare Begins
By John Stauber, AlterNet
December 30, 2003

You can download a free copy of Stauber's 1997 book in PDF file format by clicking here.

The administration's disdain for public educators stands in stark contrast to its respect for the meat handling industry and other groups that escape the heavy hand of government.

While Europe long ago banned the inclusion of sick cows (downer cows) in the beef butchered and sent to market, the beef industry here in the USA resisted such controls and found a willing partner in Washington . . .

One of our philosophies is minimal government involvement and letting the industry address these things," Terry Stokes, the association's chief executive, said. "More regulation increases costs and makes it difficult for small- and medium-size producers to comply.
Source: The New York Times, "For Cattle Industry, a Swift Response Years in the Making," by Glen Justice, January 1, 2004 (article - subscription required)

Suddenly we find many countries banning imports of our beef - potentially a 3.4 billion dollar loss in revenue (according to the US Meat Export Federation) that might have been avoided with greater care, smarter regulation and better enforcement.

This is an industry that passed the "Animal Disparagement Act" in Texas that led to the famous lawsuit against Oprah Winfrey for daring to host a program featuring a critic of our meat industry.

What happens when we trust industries to regulate themselves?

When the first North American cow with the disease was found last May in Canada, I told interviewers that if the disease was in Canada, it would also be found in the United States and Mexico, since all three NAFTA nations are one big free trade zone and all three countries feed their cattle slaughterhouse waste in the form of blood, fat and rendered meat and bone meal.
From Mad Cow USA: The Nightmare Begins
By John Stauber, AlterNet
December 30, 2003
When Push Comes to Shove

The punitive provisions of NCLB combined with many serious flaws in strategy make it a potentially disastrous piece of legislation.

As illustrated previously in this journal, there are at least seventeen major problems with this law - see January, 2003 issue.

An administration reluctant to take on the meat packing industry to guarantee safe food for the public has waded into education with heavy boots, imposing policy directives that threaten the well being of schools, families and children.

Just as it has taken several years to uncover the damage done to children in Texas by the so-called "Texas Miracle" - an early version of the NCLB approach to school reform - see "A Lost Generation? A Million Left Behind?" - it may take a decade to assess the damage being done to schools and children by NCLB.

  • Reading performance - especially comprehension - may decline as wrong-minded programs with an unbalanced focus upon early phonics without a corresponding focus on comprehension skills are pushed upon schools and poor children by the feds who base their slanted approach to reading on pseudo-science and weak research. See Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, Legislation and Lies by Gerald Coles.
  • Schools with diverse populations and disadvantaged populations will suffer more than advantaged, homogeneous schools as the challenge of making AYP (Acceptable Yearly Progress) for nine groups can lead to failure for a school and heavy sanctions if any one group performs below expectations. See "Diverse Schools More Likely to Be Labeled as Failing, Study Says" in the New York Times.
  • Parents will be encouraged to flock to thousands of untested, questionable charter schools and private schooling ventures that are favored by the Bush administration in its push for a free market approach to schooling - with many of these charter schools facing few of the regulations imposed by NCLB on truly public schools.
  • Already strained public education budgets will be spread ever more thinly across a widening student population base as the rules are bent to provide public funding for previously independent and faith-based schools.
  • Teacher quality will decline as certification and proper grounding in pedagogy is supplanted by simplistic notions of quality that allow for online teacher preparation and alternative paths that lack rigor or a compelling research base.
  • Many excellent teachers and administrators will change professions rather than participate in a type of education that is based on factory strategies and standardization - a scripted style of instruction that de-skills teachers and ignores decades of craft knowledge.
  • Disadvantaged students will find themselves poorly prepared for the modern workplace, for higher ed and for democratic citizenship as the curriculum narrows to feed them nothing but the basic skills in math and reading first measured by NCLB.
  • Schools will be buffeted by helter-skelter shifts in student populations as parents move their children from school to school seeking the right building to turn their children into good students.

The Beginnings of Revolt

Recognizing the absurdity and the damage accompanying NCLB/Helter-Skelter, some school districts have chosen to turn down the federal funds rather than comply with the rigid, costly and harmful rules and regulations imposed by Washington according to a January 1, 2004 report in the New York Times.

Some School Districts Challenge Bush's Signature Education Law
Published: January 2, 2004
By Sam Dillon in the New York Times.
A growing number of school systems are beginning to resist the No Child Left Behind law, saying it is too costly and cumbersome.
The school district here in Reading recently filed suit contending that Pennsylvania, in enforcing the federal law, had unfairly judged Reading's efforts to educate thousands of recent immigrants and unreasonably required the impoverished city to offer tutoring and other services for which there is no money.
In recent weeks . . . three Connecticut school districts have rejected federal money rather than comply with the red tape that accompanies the law, and several Vermont districts have shifted federal poverty money away from schools to shield them from sanctions.

While cloaked in benign phrases about child welfare, NCLB is more like a wrecking ball or a serious disease. See "The NCLB Wrecking Ball." As the more stringent measures, consequences and punishments kick in, the true nature of this law will become evident and an increasing number of districts is likely to just say No! But the more dependent the district on federal funds to stay alive, the harder it may be to turn them down. The more impoverished the district, the tougher the challenge. Such districts are caught between the proverbial rock and hard place.

We Don't Want Your Millions, Mister

Reading of these first rebel school districts I was reminded of a folk song I first learned in the 1960s - an old favorite of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

I don't want your millions, Mister,
I don't want your diamond ring.
All I want is the right to live, Mister,
Give me back my job again.
Full lyrics at

With the loss of 2.9 million factory jobs in the past few years and the ongoing "offshoring" of countless white collar jobs during coming years, the connection between NCLB, the Walmartization of America and the decline of the American job gives the old song a new ring of currency. See "The Cheapening of America: NCLB and the Decline of the Good Job."

Look for an article on the devastating impact of "offshoring" in the forthcoming February, 2004 issue of No Child Left. Resources are available at The February article will be "No Job Left Behind."

The original song was a mountain love song titled "East Virginia."

I was born and raised in old Virginia,
To North Carolina I did go,
There I courted some pretty young woman,
The name and age I did not know

But troubled times and new conditions led to new versions, with "Greenback Dollar" emerging as a favorite tale of a woman who ran away with the wrong man.

I don't want your greenback dollar,
I don't want your diamond ring,
All I want is your love, darlin',
Won't you take me back again?

In the 1930s, according to Alan Lomax in Folk Songs of North America (page 282), Jim Garland, one of the strike leaders of Coal Creek, Kentucky, rhymed together a labor version of the original song.

We worked to build this country, Mister,
While you enjoyed a life of ease,
You've stolen all that we built, Mister,
Now our children starve and freeze.

A new century brings new threats to the American way of life as powerful forces set in motion changes that may turn things upside down and inside out, eliminating huge numbers of well paid jobs, sending work overseas and dumping millions of American children on the street without graduating from school. Even those who graduate may find themselves poorly prepared for real life by a constant diet of test items and a curriculum that is narrowly defined and lacking in quality or rigor.

Perhaps we need new lyrics to match the times?

We don't want your millions, Mister,
We don't want your dumb ideas,
You will wreck what we built, Mister,
Tearing down the work of years.

There are children who are starving,
They can't read or understand,
They need a decent education
Not some fast food phonics plan.

If you think you know the answers,
If you think you're so damned smart,
How'd you fail so many Texans?
How'd you break a million hearts?

We don't want your kind of miracle
We don't want your kind of change
We've seen the dropout rate in Texas
And we will not do the same.

Take your tests of Yearly Progress
Take your charter schools of choice
We can see your true intentions
We don't trust you or your voice.

Schools need more than tests and sanctions.
They need funding, time and skills.
Give them more than propaganda,
Empty words and threats and drills.

You ignore the basic problem.
You deny the bitter truth.
There are children who need Head Start
There are families without jobs.

If you want an end to dropouts,
If you want them all to learn.
Put an end to low wage living
Give fair wages half a turn.

8. (An original)
I don't want your millions, Mister,
I don't want your pleasure yacht.
All I want is food for my babies.
Give to me my old job back.

© 2004, Jamie McKenzie

If you would like to submit a verse for consideration please e-mail the editor at .

Still Eating Beef

Some folks will respond to the Mad Cow Disease by going vegetarian or eating only organic meat. But these choices can prove expensive. Others will persist with old habits and deny the risks . . .

"Bush Still Eating Beef Despite Scare, Aide Says"
Friday, December 26, 2003; 7:18 PM

By Mark Felsenthal

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President Bush, the former governor of the nation's top cattle state, has no plans to stop eating beef despite growing worry about mad cow disease, a White House spokesman said on Friday.

"He's continued to eat beef," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters traveling with the president to his ranch. The U.S. food supply is safe and public risk from the discovery of the disease is low, McClellan added.

The president had had beef "in the last couple of days," McClellan said.

© 2004, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved. This article may be e-mailed to individuals by individuals, but all other duplication, distribution, publication and use is prohibited without first receiving explicit permission. Contact for information.
What can you do to change this law before it does great damage to the schools and children in your state and town?
  1. Subscribe to "No Child Left" to stay informed about efforts to repeal NCLB. Click here.
  2. Speak with the school board members, administrators and teachers in your community to learn how NCLB will change schools and learning in your town.
  3. Start communicating with your Senators and Representatives to let them know you want this law changed to put more emphasis on capacity building and support rather than testing and punishment.
  4. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper expressing your concerns. Illustrate the dangers of this law with specific and compelling examples.
  5. Emphasize concrete alternatives that would do more to improve the futures of disadvantaged children.

A List of ESEA (NCLB) Amendments

1. Fund social programs that impact school readiness so that all children actually enter school ready to learn as the first President Bush promised long ago.

2. Fund capacity building (enhanced teaching and learning) in districts and districts for several years before engaging in punishing labels and reckless choice provisions. Capacity building might mean providing hundreds of hours of training in effective reading strategies, for example. But it does not mean training everybody in a single highly scripted program endorsed by the administration for pseudo-scientific reasons.

3. Devote public money to truly public schools. Be careful not to divert funds to reckless experiments or diploma mills.

4. Fund enough construction of new schools within public systems so parental choice is real.

5. Support informed school choice within public systems.

6. Emphasize rewards and incentives rather than sanctions.

7. Hold all publicly funded schools to standards for performance and quality, whether actually private, charter or truly public. Be careful about simplistic notions of high stakes testing.

8. Fund recruitment and preparation of effective teachers and aides from all racial and economic groups to close the gap between current staffing levels and what is desirable.

9. End the insulting, broad brush assaults on teachers and administrators struggling against difficult challenges.

10. Capitalize on the good research conducted to discover what works best in schools and avoid simplistic panaceas and platitudes imported from the world of business and medicine.

11. Enrich the options available to all children. Forswear tightly scripted, robotic programs and the fast food approaches to school improvement.

12. Build school improvement on a richly defined foundation of alternatives and strategies.

13. Eliminate Trojan horses, hidden agendas and shameful politics from ESEA.

14. Stop using Madison Avenue techniques to hide the harsh realities of so-called compassionate conservatism.