Seems like wherever he goes these days, George Bush finds time to read to kiddies, and recite "Leave no child behind." After eight years as governor, he left the children of Texas behind those of 48 other states. His solution was to withhold money from failing schools and give it to schools that did better — or at least taught them to pray
Somehow conservatives latched on to the slogan "Leave no child behind" because it sounded as if they cared, and because some educators favored what they called "social promotion" –that is, you don’t demote kids who are failing–you move them on to the next grade–but for god’s sake, you give them special attention — small classes, picked teachers, social workers, parent involvement, physical checkups, nutrition, music, art and fun and games.
That’s what Mayor Bloomberg left out when he laid down the law last Monday. It was a shocking moment in the history of our town. Bloomberg takes the opposite line to George Bush–says if kids flunk, they’ve got to be held back–but he comes out pretty much the same. In no time, Bloomberg fired his top educators and three commissioners who disagreed with him — and did it in the face of parents, teachers and civic leaders who had come to a hearing to disagree with him. It was a pre-emptive strike.
As a result, perhaps as many as 30 percent of third graders in New York figure to be left back this June–and you know in which communities they live. If Bloomberg has any plans for a fix, he hasn’t revealed them. Neither have the bosses of either party in New York, Albany and Washington.
No child left behind, indeed.
The Mess We’re In
We have just been through a week that would wipe the smirk off Bush’s face –if it were not for what the Daily Howler calls our "state-sponsored" media. For an example, his note on the Web today quotes the headlines on the last four White House Letters by Elisabeth Bumiller of the Mew York Times. Listen:
"Bush Ready and Bursting to Bring It On!" Then: "Want a Reliable President? Here’s One You Can Set Your Clock By" — Then–"Bush Glad to Be in the Campaign Fray" and, today "Bush on the Campaign Trail, Couched in Comfy Feathers."
Remember how she cut John Kerry off–saying, "You’re in New York, now"? Well, she and the Times manage to be very polite indeed to Bush. Take yesterday’s disclosures by Richard Clarke, who was chief of counter-terrorism for our last four presidents. He tried and failed repeatedly to alert George Dubya and his team to plotting by Al Qaeda to attack us at home. Conceivably, they could have averted 9/11. Certainly, they lied about Saddam Hussein being involved in it. Clarke’s story is rich new evidence for impeachment The Times buried it on Page 18–under the byline of Judith Miller–that celebrated discoverer of weapons of mass destruction.
It’s not only the embedded media that lies in the way of impeachment. Before nightfall yesterday, Senators Biden and Lieberman were on the air, knocking the new revelations. Both have long records of lending Republicans a helping hand. And both are described as leading Democrats — which says a great deal about the mess we’re in.
JOHN L. HESS is a former writer for the New York Times, a career he chronicles in his excellent new book My Times: a Memoir of Dissent. Hess is now a political commentator for WBAI.