Monday, 10 March 2008

Erm. . .


Here in Washington there is palpable excitement about (just maybe) moving learning forward post Bush - after some bleak years. Education is not an election issue here - so few voters have school age kids these days - but this is good fortune because it means that none of the contenders are making fatuous promises.

There is no doubt - and good evidence - that the US's "No child left behind" has been an unmitigated disaster - as near as I've lately seen to a kind of mass national economic suicide. So there is a hunger for change after Bush. And by the way, a view put to me over dinner last night (Tapas) was that the troubles the country now finds itself embroiled in are a clear measure of how education needs reforming - a complete lack of ANY understanding of geography or history is being blamed for Iraq!

Mind you, in amongst the election badges the shops are selling I found this slightly alarming talking Bush doll/Action Man (with matching Laura Bush too if desired!). As the box says, you just push a button to hear those "familiar phrases"! Which presumably triggers some kind of random word sequencer - rather like the real thing! I struggled with the idea of what "familiar phrases" a toy Gordon Brown, or for that matter Dmitry Medvedev, might utter, if pushed. The mind boggles...

2 comments:

Penny Munn said...

The shortage of voters with kids at school is NOT the reason why education is not an election issue in the USA. The USA is not a homogenous country, and the important thigs about education (like the curriculum, the budget, and the assessments) are decided at State level. Nationwide projects(like No Child Left Behind) are managed at a political level that sits above the issues that are decided (and funded) at local level. States raise income for themselves from local income tax, so federal funding for additional projects (like special needs, language programmes, early intervention, etc) are absorbed into systems that vary widely across the country. Education becomes an important issue for local elections, but we don't hear about those so much in the UK. The implications of this split between state and federal politics for the way we experience the backwash of trends and policy in American education are huge.
Penny Munn

Prof Stephen Heppell said...

Thanks Penny - the one thing everyone seems agreed on is that the focus and testing of No Child left Behind has resulted, perhaps predictably, in one nation left behind and urgent action is needed to get learning back on track.

I must say there was real optimism in Washington about the prospect that this could happen.