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No Child's Behind Left

The State of the Union's New Educational Eugenics

Go ahead, George, and lie to me. Lie to my dog. Lie to my sister. But don't you ever lie to my kids.

Deep into your State of the Siege lecture tonight, long after sensible adults had turned off the tube or kicked in the screen, you came after our children. "By passing the No Child Left Behind Act," you said, "We are regularly testing every child ... and making sure they have better options when schools are not performing."

You said it ... and then that little tongue came out; that weird way you stick your tongue out between your lips like the little kid who knows he's fibbing. Like a snake licking a rat. I saw that snakey tongue dart out and I thought, "He knows."

And what you know, Mr. Bush, is this: you've ordered this testing to hunt down, identify and target for destruction the hopes of millions of children you find too expensive, too heavy a burden, to educate.

Here's how No Child Left Behind and your tests work in the classrooms of Houston and Chicago. Millions of 8 year olds are given lists of words and phrases. They are graded, like USDA beef: some prime, some OK, many failed.

Once the kids are stamped and sorted, the parents of the marked children ask for you to fill your tantalizing promise, to "make sure they have better options when schools are not performing."

But there is no "better option," is there, Mr. Bush? Where's the money for the better schools to take in the kids getting crushed in cash-poor districts? Where's the open door to the suburban campuses with the big green lawns for the dark kids with the test-score mark of Cain.

And if I bring up the race of the kids with the low score, don't get all snippy with me, telling me your program is color blind. We know the color of the kids left behind; and it's not the color of the kids you went to school with at Philips Andover Academy.

You know and I know that the testing is a con. There is no "better option" at the other end. The cash went to the end the inheritance tax, that special program to give every millionaire's son another million.

But you'll tell me, you took tests as a youth. I know you did. And you scored on the Air Guard flight test 25 out of 100, one point above too dumb to fly. But you zoomed past the other would-be flyboys. They were stamped, "Ready for 'Nam." And you took a test to get into Yale. And though your pet rock scored a wee bit higher than you, your grandpa on the Yale board provided the "better option" which got you in.

Here in New York City, your educational Taliban, led by Republican Mayor Bloomberg, had issued an edict to test the third-graders. Winnow out the chaff and throw them back, exactly where they started, to repeat the same failed program another year. In other words, the core edict of No Child Left Behind is that failing children will be left behind another year. And another year and another year.

You know and I know that this is not an educational opportunity program - because you offer no opportunities, no hope, no plan, no funding. Rather, it is the new Republican social Darwinism, educational eugenics: Identify the nation's loser-class early on. Trap them, then train them cheap. The system will provide the new worker drones that will clean the toilets at the Yale alumni club, to punch the McDonald's cash registers color-coded for illiterates, to pamper the winner-class on the higher floors of the new service economy order.

First Nations children lack skills to finish school: FSIN

REGINA, SK -- The province's education system, both on and off-reserve, is failing to provide First Nations children with the basic level of knowledge and skills to complete their schooling, says FSIN Vice-Chief Lindsay Cyr.

Cyr, who holds the education portfolio with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, said a study released Tuesday shows 78 per cent of First Nations youth have less than a high school education compared to 49 per cent of non-aboriginal youth.

"We have to do a little bit of work in terms of guaranteeing our people have the tools and are equipped to deal with the education (requirement) that are needed at the post-secondary level," he told reporters.

Despite the amount of money now spent to educate First Nations people and prepare them for university or take trades training, entry-level test results show they lack the level of education that is required, Cyr said.

"Certificates show they (students) have a Grade 10 level (education), but our own testing and the military testing show that they don't," he said.

According to the FSIN study, 17 out of every 100 First Nations youth have not advanced beyond Grade 8.

Low education causes low workforce participation and severely limits the employment prospects of First Nations youth and severely limits their earning potential, the report states.

The education system needs to be made accountable, he said, noting that standard testing and performance indicators need to be developed to ensure students are receiving the quality education that they deserve and one that meets their cultural and academic needs.

"I think that testing is one thing we should be doing. If the curriculum is not to our satisfaction then I think we should be given the opportunity to redevelop the curriculum to meet the needs of our people, and if necessary change the teaching methods," Cyr said.

"We are paying a tremendous amount of money for education, yet our people are still not getting what they need in terms of an education. We have to look at what the deterrents are in the system and address them one by one," he said.

The high dropout rate is a huge challenge for the provincial government, said Aboriginal Affairs Minister Chris Axworthy, noting the province's future labour market will rely on First Nations and Metis youth.

"If the education levels are not high enough to be able to get a job, keep a job and make a living, then that means not only will our economy suffer, but also peoples' lives will suffer as well," Axworthy said.

The province, he said, has to ensure young people are meeting the appropriate educational attainment standards and that the education system is not lowering those standards to make it easier for children to achieve those levels.

"We need to keep raising the bar, but in addition to that, we also have to keep raising the supports for children so in fact they can meet those expectations," Axworthy said, pointing to the creation of community schools as part of that support system.

Striking Teachers Trade Class for Jail

FREEHOLD, NJ (AP) -- History teacher Barbara Guenther hasn't missed a day of class in 37 years. Now, she is spending her days in a 9-by-9 jail cell, locked up along with scores of other striking teachers in a bitter lesson in civil disobedience.

Among them is Arline Corbett, 57, a veteran teacher who jokingly says she is so law-abiding she still has the "do not remove under penalty of law" tags on her old mattresses.

Then there is physical education teacher Steve Antonucci, who was the toast of the town last weekend after coaching the Middletown Township High School South Tigers to a state football championship.

Two days later, he was in jail, eating bologna sandwiches and standing for twice-a-day head counts with alleged killers, carjackers and petty crooks.

"This is the reward I get," the 30-year-old coach told a judge before being led away in handcuffs like all the others.

By the end of the day Thursday, nearly 240 striking teachers in well-to-do Middletown Township had been jailed this week for violating a back-to-work order. They are the first New Jersey teachers to be locked up in 23 years, and some 500 more could follow suit.

It is the biggest mass jailing of striking teachers since 1978, when 265 were locked up for 18 days in Bridgeport, Conn., according to National Education Association spokeswoman Darryl Figueroa.

It is so busy at the courthouse that hearings have been assigned to three judges.

The teachers, who make an average of $56,000 annually, are fighting a move to increase their health care premiums by up to $600 per person, per year. Currently, they pay $250.

None of the district's 10,500 students have been in class since Nov. 28 and the two sides remain far apart. The Board of Education received a death threat this week in a message left by a caller.

"It's become a war," Schools Superintendent Jack DeTalvo said.

The teachers have been called before judges in alphabetical order -- how else? -- starting with the As on Monday, the Bs on Tuesday and moving into the Os, Ps, Qs and Rs by Thursday.

Many have made impassioned, Patrick Henry-like speeches about willingness to suffer the consequences of their defiance, their love of the job, and their contempt for Board of Education leaders.

"I try to teach my students this country is fair and just," Guenther, 57, told Superior Court Judge Ira Kreizman this week, her voice breaking. "In this process, the law is not fair and just. Sometimes, good people have to stand up to fight an unjust law, and that's what I'm doing."

Judge Clarkson Fisher Jr., who imposed the back-to-work order, said he decided on the one-week jail terms because he was concerned fines would not get teachers back to work.

"You are holding the keys to the jail," Fisher told one group of strikers. "Any time you want to come out, let me know and you are out."

Eight of those who were jailed were released on Thursday after pleading hardship and agreeing to return to work.

Dozens of others have avoided jail altogether by citing family responsibilities or medical problems -- high blood pressure, single parenthood, an elderly parent in need of care. Fisher has been lenient but not always patient.

Special education teacher Kate Cosgrove told Fisher in a long monologue how she bought classroom equipment with her own money, and never complained or filed a worker's compensation claim. She was excused after telling the judge she had two young children to care for.

As she walked out of the courtroom, Fisher said: "It's a good thing there wasn't a back door at the Alamo."

Others have gone proudly, holding handcuffed wrists up in the air as they were escorted to sheriff's department vans for the half-mile trip to the jail.

Middletown Township, a bedroom community of 66,000 people about 45 miles from New York City, was one of New Jersey's hardest-hit towns in the World Trade Center attack. Three dozen Middletown residents were among the victims Sept. 11.

Add in the worsening economy and fallout from layoffs at nearby Lucent Technologies, and there appears to be little sympathy for what some residents consider money-hungry teachers.

"With everything that is going on in this world due to the tragic attacks of Sept. 11, can't anybody sit down and be thankful for what they have?" one resident wrote in an e-mail to the Board of Education.

7th-grader freed after being jailed for essay: Paper described killing teacher, classmates

A seventh-grader at Ponder High School was freed from the Denton County juvenile jail, where he had been held since Oct. 28 for writing a Halloween essay that described killing a teacher and several classmates.

Denton County Juvenile Court Judge Darlene Whitten had ordered Christopher Beamon detained for 10 days after reading the essay and reviewing his previous records, officials said.

In an interview before the boy was released, Judge Whitten would not discuss specifics of the case but said she takes any statement or threat of bodily harm very seriously.

"I do want people to understand that, just like making a threat at an airport, a threat in a school situation is very serious, even if it was in jest," she said from Austin, where she was attending a conference for juvenile court judges. "The system has got to take such words in an earnest way."

Christopher was released after his mother, Jan Beamon, hired Dallas attorney William Short.

"He's gone to Russia," Mr. Short said, referring to the boy's confinement. "It's insane."

Mr. Short said he and the boy's mother want him publicly identified to help call attention to what they perceive as injustice.

Denton County District Attorney Bruce Isaacks said Tuesday that he did not plan to prosecute the case. The judge, who could not be reached for comment immediately, will have the option of releasing the child early.

"It looks like to me the child was doing what the teacher told him to do, which was to write a scary story," Mr. Isaacks said. "But this child does appear to be a persistent discipline problem for this school, and the administrators there were legitimately concerned."

Christopher received a grade of 100 on the essay, plus extra credit for reading it aloud.

Dr. Byron Welch, Ponder school district superintendent, supported the boy's release.

"Seeing a child in a jail setting is disturbing for everybody," Dr. Welch said. "But we are concerned with the safety and security of everyone, and the balance point is, when someone feels threatened, we had to step in and do something."

According to school officials, students were given a relatively generic beginning for an essay and asked to finish the scary story. Christopher read his essay to the class; it talked of shooting and killing his teacher and a few classmates.

Parents of students named in the essay called school principal Chance Allen expressing concern that Christopher might harm their children.

"If we feel like there was any element of criminal activity, be it a child or a teacher receiving a verbal or written threat, we are dealing with a penal code issue and must make a referral to law enforcement," said Dr. Welch.

The school district asked the Denton County juvenile authorities to intervene. A sheriff's deputy was dispatched to take the child to Denton County Juvenile Court.

The boy's attorney suggested that authorities overreacted because of school shootings that have occurred around the country.

"This is now the nightmare in reverse for school administrators," Mr. Short said. "How do they differentiate between acceptable but unruly behavior and behavior that is menacing to the extent that it constitutes a genuine threat to the well-being of other students?"

Judge Whitten said parents need to warn their children that threats made at school will not be viewed as child's play.

"These threats are not considered empty threats or jokes" she said. "Especially after Columbine, we have to take them seriously."

(Staff writer Brenda Rodriguez contributed to this report.)

The story that got the grade seven student busted

My flashlight went out and I heard someone right behind me and I turned in a very slowly scared way and boom the lights came on and the door bell rang. I walked very slowly and creepy and turned the knob ding dong the door bell went again. I said just a minute and I will be right there and I looked through the little hole in the door and Robin said Boo. I told him to come in and have a seat and we both wated and wated for Ismael because he was supposed to bring the (ounce) so we could get high but half an hour later still no Ismael so I got the idea of freeon and we grabbed a bag and a knife and ran out back to the airconditionar.

We througth the bag over the nostle and covered it tightly and used the knife to press the volv. We started to hear something after we got high so we ditched everything we quickly run to the door to see who it was and there wasn't anybody there then we heard someone at the back door to see who it was I thought it was a crook so I busted out with a 12 guage and Ismael busted out with 9 mm and we step off the porch and this bloody body droped down in front of us and scared us half to death and about 20 kids started cracking up and pissed me off so I shot Matt, Jake, and Ben started laughing so hard that I acssedently shot Mrs. Henry. Ismael saw somebody steeling antifreeze so Ismael shot over ther near the airconditonar and hit somebody (indecipherable word) also scattered out and went home and my mom drove up and everything was back to normal but they didn't have any heads.

My Life in a Stolen Moment

Duluth's an iron ore shipping town in Minnesota
It's built up on a rocky cliff that runs into Lake Superior
I was born there - my father was born there -
My mother's from the Iron Range Country up north
The Iron Range is a long line a mining towns
that begin at Grand Rapids and end at Eveleth
We moved up there to live with my mother's folks
in Hibbing when I was young -
Hibbing's got the biggest open pit ore mine in the world
Hibbing's got schools, churches, grocery stores an' a jail
It's got high school football games an' a movie house
Hibbing's got souped-up cars runnin' full blast
on a Friday night
Hibbing's got corner bars with polka bands
You can stand at one end of Hibbing's main drag
an' see clear past the city limits on the other end
Hibbing's a good ol' town
I ran away from it when I was 10, 12, 13, 15, 151/2, 17 an' 18
I been caught an' brought back all but once
I wrote my first song to my mother an' titled it "To Mother"
I wrote that in 5th grade an' the teacher gave me a B+
I started smoking at 11 years old an' only stopped once
to catch my breath
I don't remember my parents singing too much
At least I don't remember swapping any songs with them
Later I sat in college at the University of Minnesota
on a phony scholarship that I never had
I sat in science class an' flunked out for refusin' to watch
a rabbit die
I got expelled from English class for using four-letter words
in a paper describing the English teacher
I also failed out of communication class for callin' up
every day and sayin' I couldn't come
I did OK in Spanish though but I knew it beforehand
I's kept around for kicks at a fraternity house
They let me live there an' I did until they wanted me to join
I moved in with two girls from South Dakota
in a two-room apartment for two nights
I crossed the bridge to 14th Street an' moved in above
a bookstore that also sold bad hamburgers
basketball sweatshirts an' bulldog statues
I fell hard for an actress girl who kneed me in the guts
an' I ended up on the East Side a the Mississippi River
with about ten friends in a condemned house underneath
the Washington Avenue Bridge just south a Seven Corners
That's pretty well my college life
After that I thumbed my way to Galveston, Texas in four days
tryin' to find an ol' friend whose ma met me
at the screen door and said he's in the Army -
By the time the kitchen door closed
I was passin' California - almost to Oregon -
I met a waitress in the woods who picked me up
an' dropped me off in Washington someplace
I danced my way from the Indian festivals in Gallup, New Mexico
To the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana
With my thumb out, my eyes asleep, my hat turned up
an' my head turned on
I's driftin' an' learnin' new lessons
I was making my own depression
I rode freight trains for kicks
An' got beat up for laughs
Cut grass for quarters
An' sang for dimes
Hitchhiked on 61 - 51 - 75 - 169 - 37 - 66 - 22
Gopher Road - Route 40 an' Howard Johnson Turnpike
Got jailed for suspicion of armed robbery
Got held for four hours on a murder rap
Got busted for looking like I do
An' I never done none a them things
Somewheres back I took time to start plain' the guitar
Somewheres back I took the time to start singin'
Somewheres back I took the time to start writin'
But I never did take the time to find out why
I took the time to do those things - when they ask
Me why an' where I got started, I gotta shake my head
an' weave my eyes an' walk away dumfounded
From Shreveport I landed in Madison, Wisconsin
From Madison we filled up a four-door Pontiac with five people
An' shot straight south an' sharp to the East an'
in 24 hours was still hanging on through the Hudson Tunnel -
Gettin' out in a snowstorm an' wavin' goodbye
to the three others, we swept on to MacDougal Street
with five dollars between us - but we weren't poor
I had my guitar an' harmonica to play
An' he had his brother's clothes to pawn
In a week, he went back to Madison while I stayed behind an'
Walked a winter's line from the Lower East Side
to Gerde's Folk City
In May, I thumbed west an' took the wrong highway to Florida
Mad as hell an' tired as well, I scrambled my way back to
South Dakota by keepin' a truck driver up all day an' singin'
One night in Cincinnati
I looked up a long time friend in Sioux Falls an' was let down,
worried blind, and hit hard by seein' how little we had to say
I rolled back to Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, lookin' up
ol' time pals an' first-run gals an' I was beginnin'
to find out that my road an' their road
is two different kinds a roads
I found myself back in New York City in the middle part
a summer staying on 28th Street with kind, honest
hard-working people who were good to me
I got wrote up in the Times after playin' in the fall
at Gerde's Folk City
I got recorded at Columbia after being wrote up in the Times
An' I still can't find the time to go back an' see why an' where
I started doing what I'm doing
I can't tell you the influences 'cause there's too many
to mention an' I might leave one out
An' that wouldn't be fair
Woody Guthrie, sure Big Joe Williams, yeah
It's easy to remember those names
But what about the faces you can't find again
What about the curbs an' corners an' cut-offs that drop out a sight an' fall behind
What about the records you hear but one time
What about the coyote's call an' the bulldog's bark
What about the tomcat's meow an' milk cow's moo
An' the train whistle's moan
Open up yer eyes an' ears an' yer influenced an' there's nothing you can do about it
Hibbing's a good ol' town I ran away from it when I was 10, 12, 13, 15, 151/2, 17 an' 18
I been caught an' brought back all but once --- Bob Dylan