Michael Gerson: Still leaving our children behind

BY MICHAEL GERSON Modified: September 29, 2012 at 1:07 am •  Published: October 1, 2012
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Whatever excuses are made, whatever euphemisms are employed, the waiver revolution is the broad institutionalization of lowered expectations.

Shocking lack of urgency

The coalition that passed No Child Left Behind consisted of strange bedfellows — civil rights groups fed up with educational failure and business groups hoping for more capable workers. The bedfellows intent on overturning high standards are even more unnatural — conservatives opposed to a federal role in just about anything and an educational establishment that has adopted a policy of massive resistance to effective accountability.

What is most shocking is the utter lack of urgency. The “parent trigger” approach depicted in “Won't Back Down” — permitting parents to take over and reorganize failing schools — would seem a minimal response to an educational emergency. But the general reaction of federal officials, governors and legislators of both parties, school administrators and unions is to loosen standards and lessen pressure for reform. They are simply assuming that a separate and unequal educational system for minorities and the poor is inevitable and that a generation of children is expendable.

The villains in this story are even broader and stranger than fiction. And a happy ending is far from assured.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP