Political Prisoners

The Law That Promotes Punishment
(Instead of Education)

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

It’s been five years since the No Child Left Behind law was put into place, and around the nation, it has left wreckage in its wake.

That’s because, like many such laws pushed by the paranoid right wing, what a law is called has little (or nothing) to do with what a law does.

Calling it No Child Left Behind gave it the benign imagery of caring for children and their futures. It’s like the so-called Patriot Act—an act, to be sure, but one so patently unconstitutional in its evisceration of the 4th Amendment (and other constitutional provisions) that no true patriot could ever support it.

While the imagery of a catchy title might’ve helped in it’s selling, the lesser known side of the law is now about to kick in—and it threatens to transform public schools into private businesses, transfer them into charter schools, allow state takeovers—or close them.

This law is of a piece from the right’s central array of evils—an attack on the very idea of public education, and a fixation with privatizing everything.

Who will suffer more from these transformations? School staffs, or children?

For No Child Left Behind was but another example of businessuber alles, and the poor be damned.

Can the same states that made boot camps into squalid hellholes of torture for children, somehow make schools pristine halls of learning? Indeed, in many states, the ‘business’ of boot camping children has been tried, and while it has made money, it has been the epicenter of abuse, mistreatment, and actually, state-subsidized child abuse.

So much for the business model.

The law was both a punishment for the poor, and a cold, calculating recognition that some children have no real place in the post-industrial society being built, and thus, were to be left behind.

Uneducated, left to the tender mercies of the streets, to stew in a hopeless funk, or to feed the cavernous maw of left behind can you get?

According to a recent report in theNew York Times, Florida faces the closing of 441 schools; Baltimore has 9 schools on the failure list; in New York State, 77 schools face so-called restructuring; and in California, over 1,000 schools have been designated chronic failures.*

By the year 2014, all of the schools located in California’s poorest districts, some 6,063 schools, are expected to be on that list!

No Child Left Behind was designed to fail, to deliver thecoup de grace to public education, and also to disable or destroy the hated teacher’s unions.

It was a law designed to fail, not to solve a pressing social problem.

The question shouldn’t be whether this new (and supposedly ‘improved’) Congress should tinker with the law.

Congress should repeal it.

*Source: Schemo, Diana Jean, “Failing Schools Strain to Meet U.S. Standard,” New York Times, Tues., Oct. 16, 2007, pp A1, A21.

—Prisonradio, October 21, 2007