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Ten Years of No Child Left Behind: Disaster Capitalism in the Schools

July 6, 2012

This article by Glen Ford is re-posted from Black Agenda Report.

The Obama administration recently gave five more states waivers to escape some of the conditions imposed by No Child Left Behind, the corporate blueprint to remake America’s schools. That means almost half the states have already won waivers, and more will probably follow in this election year.

Many critics of No Child Left Behind call the 10-year-old legislation, signed into law by President Bush, a failure. And, if you believe the real purpose was to foster extraordinary improvements in learning, then it was always doomed to failure. You cannot test your way to success, in education or any other endeavor; you can only decide who must fail. Politically speaking, No Child Left Behind was always destined to be selectively dismantled – as Obama is doing – because its arbitrary and impossible to achieve testing benchmarks would inevitably cause too many white schools to fail – as are probably four out of five districts, already. But No Child Left Behind was never intended to meet its stated goals. What the scheme was designed to do, was to use federal spending as a hammer to impose corporate governance over privatized public schools.

It has been largely successful, thanks to the diabolical genius of American racism, which always assumed that the project was aimed at Black and brown communities. The general attitude in 2002 was: break up that blackboard jungle in the inner cities. By all means, experiment on them! African American communities became the wedge through which could be inserted a corporate network of charter schools. Once the charter model reached critical mass in enough localities, President Obama unleashed an unrelenting wave of extortion and bribery that he called Race to the Top, forcing states to vastly expand the new market for charters. Thus reassured that taxpayer-financed education – a potential trillion dollar “market” – would become a Wild West for no-risk investment, Wall Street’s denizens jumped in the game with all four hooved feet.

In the space of a decade, No Child Left Behind has struck a mortal blow to American public education – just as intended. The teachers unions have been demonized, demoralized and rendered largely politically inert – which has always been at the top of the corporate wish-list. This goal was achieved under a Democratic president, whom the teachers unions nevertheless endorsed with unseemly haste, even though Obama has been more effective in their evisceration than his Republican predecessor. The teaching profession, itself, has been degraded, possibly beyond repair.

Black America, which was so callously transformed into the core market for privatized schooling, has been systematically deprived of any avenues for community control of schools, which can never coexist with the corporate structures of charterization. Black teachers have been decimated in city after city, further weakening the social fiber of their communities.

So, it is a mistake to conclude that No Child Left Behind has failed in its actual purposes. Although it may appear that President Obama’s waiver policies are disarming the program, piece by piece, the bomb has already exploded. Disaster capitalism is now deeply entrenched in U.S. public education.

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