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Volume III, Number 7, Summer, 2005

Adding Insult
to Injury

By Jamie McKenzie (About author)

Finally a state, Connecticut, has stood up to the educational regime in D.C., suing them for imposing unfunded and harmful mandates on the states. The Secretary of Ed rapidly moved to discredit her critics, accusing them of using a "red herring."

Click here for the full story at Education Week. "Conn. Files Long-Awaited Lawsuit Challenging No Child Left Behind Act" by Jeffrey Archer, August 22, 2005.

The Federal Education Department continues to impose mandates upon states that are untested, unworthy and costly - demands for annual testing, for example, that have no research to back them up. (Note article, "The Annual Testing Myth."

With NCLB we are seeing an entire nation's educational methods and agendas distorted by right wing politicians and policy wonks confusing accountability schemes with school reform. While those techniques failed to produce credible school improvement in Texas during the Bush and Spellings years, the NCLB zealots are imposing the same methods on the rest of the nation like some reliable religion.

The folks responsible for this disaster are not educators. They do not understand testing, schools, school change, reform or healthy organizational development.

They are about fear, punishment, big sticks and insults.

As with other administration policies, opposition and dissent to NCLB is quickly dismissed while the critics are "swiftboated" as bigots or extremists of some kind.

These dangerous experiments are bad enough in themselves, but they are also so costly that they can force states to reduce the quality of their testing programs to remain within the federal budget.

Education secretary calls lawsuit complaint 'red herring'

Associated Press Writer

August 24, 2005, 4:42 PM EDT
ATLANTA -- U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings on Wednesday called complaints that the federal No Child Left Behind Act isn't fully funded a "red herring" by states such as Connecticut, which filed a lawsuit this week challenging the program.
"I just see that as a red herring," she said of Connecticut's claim this year's federal funds will fall $41.6 million short of paying for staffing, training and tests for No Child Left Behind.

"What are they afraid of knowing, I guess, is one of the things I'd like to know."

Click here for full story.

Afraid of Knowing?

It seems unlikely that the Secretary understands the meaning of the term "red herring" and was simply grasping for a convenient insult to hurl at her opponents.

The lawsuit is a frontal attack. It is dead on target. It challenges the legality of unfunded mandates.

It is not a red herring by any stretch of the imagination.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition.  2000.
red herring
1. A smoked herring having a reddish color. 2. Something that draws attention away from the central issue.
From its use to distract hunting dogs from the trail.
"What are they afraid of knowing, I guess, is one of the things I'd like to know."

The Secretary's innuendo is extremely insulting. It echoes previous allegations of bigotry.

The quality of their testing program and their existing data gives the lie to her allegations. Their willingness to challenge the ill-considered national policy proves they have courage.

Afraid? Hardly.

The educators in Connecticut have far more experience, training and background in the fields of testing and schooling than the Secretary, who has never worked in a school as an educator.

To suggest that their opposition is based on fears and some kind of cover up is absurd. She is pushing a policy that is untested - an insistence on annual testing is not based on any credible evidence.

If anyone is guilty of employing a red herring, it is the Secretary who persists in playing the race card when challenged.

The writers of our Constitution would shudder.

We have right wing directives imposed from Washington upon local schools in ways that would make the writers of our Constitution shudder. We are seeing drastic federal interference in what was originally intended to be a state matter.

When Connecticut sued the Ed Department, it was an important phase in the growing rebellion against the absurd dictates of NCLB. As was covered in some detail in the June issue of this journal, Connecticut's testing program is one of the best in the nation, relying upon alternative year testing in ways that are superior to the Ed Department's "Wal-Mart" approach.

Despite her full-on PR efforts to portray her regime at the Ed Department as reasonable and flexible, the new Ed Secretary quickly lapses into insult when crossed, opposed and challenged. Her so-called flexibility is mostly talk and gesture - a thin veneer that does not stand up to scrutiny.

When Connecticut first challenged the value of annual testing, the Secretary accused her opponents of the "soft bigotry of low expectations," a favorite charge of the President and the previous Secretary when anyone questioned NCLB. Even though we have data showing that this secretary and her governor oversaw a huge Texas dropout problem when they ran things in their home state, she now has the nerve to masquerade as the protector of the very children she neglected in the past. Note article "A Lost Generation? A Million Left Behind?" Click here.

Now the Secretary accuses her opponents of waving a red herring. Her claim of bigotry is the red herring.

© 2005, 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.