Who Do We Leave Behind?

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Dec. 28 2005 4:22 PM

Who Do We Leave Behind?

Bloggers discuss a new call-to-arms over the No Child Left Behind act, a proposal to pay every congressman $1 million, and the resignation of Vladimir Putin's most outspoken adviser.

Who do we leave behind?: In a Washington Post column, education advocate Susan Goodkin writes that the No Child Left Behind act "has hurt many of our most capable children. By forcing schools to focus their time and funding almost entirely on bringing low-achieving students up to proficiency, NCLB sacrifices the education of the gifted students who will become our future biomedical researchers, computer engineers and other scientific leaders."

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"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand why this is a frightening trend, presuming it's real and widespread," writesWashington Monthly editor Paul Glastris at Political Animal. "Sure there are morally compelling reasons to focus on low-performing students. But let's not kid ourselves—there's a moral price to be paid for ignoring the potentially high-achievers."

At liberal salon TPM Café, journalist Matthew Yglesias says that NCLB has "an essentially egalitarian aspiration," and that "the school system should try to do well for the hardest to teach kids. ... Insofar as we're serious about educational equality, that will to some extent involve shortchanging the best and the brightest. Insofar as we're serious about taking the most talented as far as they can go, that will involve shortchanging equity. The former strikes me as more desirable than the latter, especially for people who want to think of themselves as being on the left."

Others say NCLB doesn't work quite how the author presents things. Eduwonk Andrew Rotherham says Goodkin assumes a "false choice" between addressing the needs of stellar students and addressing those of struggling ones. "Second," he adds, "isn't this emerging debate about gifted kids and NCLB an argument for more pluralism in public schooling and more customization? Kids are not all alike so why insist that the vast majority of public schools basically look, feel, and operate alike?" At Intelligent Discontent, Montana teacher Dan Pogreba agrees. "The assumption that there is a necessary tradeoff between resources for low achieving students and gifted ones isn't proven," he points out. "In fact, there is no compelling argument that the answer isn't targeting educational resources better, or developing programs for each group of students."

Read more about the Goodkin essay.

Incentivizing representation: "I don't make a million dollars a year but I think every member of Congress should be paid at least that much," writes formidable economist and public intellectual Thomas Sowell at Townhall.com. Many of the most qualified candidates are turned off by the peanuts to be earned in public service, he writes, suggesting that higher wages would lure more competent representatives.

At Left in the West, liberal Matt Singer thinks Sowell is on to something. "Of course, a better solution would be to find some candidates with integrity," he writes. Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse believes "there are also at least a few public service types in Congress, the sort of people who wouldn't take high-paying jobs if they were not in politics. But I'm thinking Sowell doesn't trust these people to make decisions about our money."

"I suppose there's a hint of a point in there somewhere," allows Steve Benen, guest host of Washington Monthly's Political Animal. "I'm hardly convinced, though, that the quality of lawmakers would improve if their salaries grew by a factor of six. For one thing, members of Congress already spend an inordinate amount of their time raising money so that they can keep their jobs. ... If these guys embrace character assassination for a temp job that pays $165,200, what would they do for the same position if it pays $1 million?"

Plenty of strange bedfellows agree with the liberal Benen. "You'd think an economist would understand better than most that upping the compensation is only going to increase the demand for the job on the part of those driven by pecuniary interests, not reduce it," writes Christian libertarian Vox Day of Vox Popoli. Conservative Betsy Newmark is equally skeptical. "They'd become even more desperate to get elected," she says. "And so they'd engage in more pork-barrell spending to buy votes with the taxpayer's money. They'd demagogue even more and be more likely to resist any controversial plan to fix long term problems."

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