The arguments regarding NCLB, both pro and con, are at first glance complex and confusing. Myriad special interest groups spout statistics, cite experts, and brandish research that justifies maintaining NCLB in its present state, or perhaps tweaking it, or maybe overhauling it, or just abolishing it completely, depending on who you're listening to at the moment.
This debate is not nearly as "shades of gray" as it seems. At the heart of this argument lies a fairly straightforward question facing all of us:
Are we, and our fellow human beings simply another species of animal, or are we something more?
What's that got to do with NCLB? Just about everything.
If you view humans as just another form of life on this planet, your treatment of your fellow man is going to reflect that view. For some it's a simple matter to take the rules that apply to animal life in general and apply them to the human race. Consider:
Many species of animal live in a rigid social structure (hive, pack, school, herd) in which the life of the individual is of little value, and easily traded in order to promote the survival of the group. Survival of the fittest is the rule, and if you are among the unfit, well, tough.
Every herd needs a leader, someone whose "fitness" qualifies them to make the decisions for the rest of the herd, and to enforce those choices by any means possible. If that doesn't happen to be you, again, tough.
Animals do not possess "free will." They are prisoners of environmental conditions that cause them to behave in predictable ways through reward and punishment. And so are you.
Once you've seen one rat/wildebeest/sardine/etc., you've seen them all. You can measure a few individuals of a species in a great number of ways, and then describe the entire species with the numbers you've generated. Physical or behavioral differences of/by individuals within the species that fall outside the parameters of this mathematical description can be considered anomalies and simply disregarded.
Life is about competition. Animals of different species, and individuals within the same species, compete for common, limited resources. The strong survive and the weak go hungry and perish. That's just the way it is when you're an animal.
But what if you believe otherwise? What if you believe that humans are something unique - a species whose sentience sets us apart from the rest of the planet's inhabitants? What if there is within us some indefinable spark of magic, a touch of divinity that separates us from the rest the planet's life while at the same time binding us to an alternate standard of conduct unique to our special standing in the world?
Such belief requires a respect for the personal journey each of us makes in the course of a lifetime, a deep regard for the potential within every person, and the share of the space and time it needs to develop. Cooperation, rather than competition, seems to make more sense.
This divine spark defies measurement by the crude tools of science, and any attempt to measure and quantify it will be about as successful as trying to pick up mercury with your fingers. Our diversity must be respected as a special feature of humanity, and attempts to standardize humans must fly in the face of a grand understanding that is beyond us.
We are required to reject the wholesale manipulation of the environment to produce "desirable" behaviors in those around us, by those who see themselves as fit to serve as our shepherds.
Take a look now at the No Child Left Behind legislation with its domineering (and cynical) carrot-and-stick approach, its misplaced faith in "statistics," and its attempt to homogenize the population through standardized curriculum and standardized tests. There is no doubt how those who created it must feel about the rest of us.
There are not shades of gray in this matter. NCLB is an affront to humanity. There is no fixing it.
Pick your side and take a stand.