Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fixing what's broke

This month, Congress has made two decisions regarding education, and both concern fixing ways of doing things that just aren't working

The first was an increase in funding for abstinence-only sex education. Despite the fact that multiple studies (including this one, just released) state that that this form of sexuality education does not work to prevent teen sexual activity/disease/pregnancy, and despite the fact that the Democrats said they'd fix it, instead they approved a $28 million increase in funding for it. This policy is broken--we need to fix it and give kids honest, accurate, and comprehensive sex ed.

The second decision was to delay the decision on reauthorizing 2001's No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This law had good intentions and disastrous results. Again, there are plenty of studies which say basing achievement solely on standardized test scores doesn't work. It's turned our nations' schools into test prep centers. Kids do drills in math instead of art class or recess. Now certainly there is much in our public schools that needs improvement. Kids do need to know the basics of math and reading. They also need time to just run around and be social, and to explore art and music. They can't do any of those things as well if they're in classes of 30+, fed junk food, and their teachers are shelling out their own small paychecks to buy supplies like construction paper. NCLB doesn't fix any of those things, and perhaps the delay in reauthorization shows that Congress is paying attention to the widespread disappointment and disagreement with this law.

They way we teach our children--and what we teach them--affects them for so much longer than the 12-or-so years they're in school. Our government needs to stop ignoring the facts and fix what's broken. We need to make our voices heard on these issues. It does make a difference.

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