July 12 2015 / Interview by Ryan Leach / Bored Out Magazine -
Ryan Leach: I’d like to talk with you about the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). It was an Act pushed through Congress by the Bush Administration. The Act forces States to administer tests to students to check for educational growth. At best NCLB seems misguided. Teacher preparation courses advocate for a higher level of learning. For example, Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning—which was a bedrock of the teaching program I attended—places rote knowledge at the bottom of the cognitive domain; and rote knowledge is exactly what these tests gauge. Why was this Act implemented? What effects has it had on Public Education?
Noam Chomsky: I haven’t done a careful study. Others have though. It should have been anticipated that NCLB would have a negative effect on teaching—if the purpose of teaching is to help children develop their sense of curiosity and independence of mind; and help them explore topics of interest to them and so on. If the goal is to create automatons, then it’s an effective program. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from teachers, students and parents about it. Just a couple of days ago a woman told me about her sixth-grade daughter. Her child was interested in a topic brought up in class. She asked the teacher if they could discuss it further; the teacher told her that they couldn’t do it because they had to prepare for a test.
Leach: I worked as a teacher in a public elementary school. To me and many of the pedagogues I taught with NCLB was the bane of our existence. Quite often we would have to rifle through subjects and quickly address facts that students needed to know for tests.