Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Educational Quagmire: The High Cost of Ignoring Biophysical and Ecological Factors

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Educational Quagmire: The High Cost of Ignoring Biophysical and Ecological Factors

Article excerpt

Recognizing that academic competencies are fundamental to a productive society, American policymakers and educators have, since the landmark Brown (1954-55) school desegregation ruling, placed high priority on closing the racial achievement gap (RAG). At all government levels federal, state, and local - successive waves of school reforms have funneled resources into within-school reforms. In so doing, the impact of broad ecological and biophysical influences on human development and learning have been virtually if not totally ignored. Therefore and similar to programming reforms since the 1950s, the most recent federal initiative, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), is constructed on failed theoretical templates. The paper reviews schooling reforms upon which NCLB is based, in the context of the program's continued political popularity which contrasts with failure to narrow the RAG. Future projections of American educational productivity, and the subsequent need for dramatic school reforms, are examined in the context of rapidly changing American demographics.

Key Words: Racial Achievement Gap; No Child Left Behind; Political Correctness; Educational Reforms; Mainstreaming/Inclusion.

For more than six decades, the Federal government - supported by academia, government bureaucracies, courts, and the media - has required states to support demonstrably unproductive schooling initiatives, the most recent being No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Initially enacted in 2001 through passage in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate, NCLB is a controversial United States federal law (Act of Congress) reauthorizing various federal educational initiatives intended to improve academic performance of American students through within-school reforms. Virtually no attention is given to biophysical and broad ecological factors such as brain dysfunction and stressors within families and communities. Based solely on outcome-based education, NCLB assumes that high academic expectations and exclusive focus on reading and math will enable virtually all students to perform at "proficiency' as defined by performance at the 40th percentile. When a high proportion of students within a school fail to gain "proficiency." Schools are designated as "failing." Parents are then granted flexibility in selecting other schools for their children: the assumption is that schools alone are sufficient not only to assure academic "proficiency" within school bodies, but also to eliminate the persisting RAG.1

The RAG impacts virtually every facet of American life, including health, drug addiction, crime, welfare, national productivity, and budgets of all governmental units. Given the consequences of successive but unsuccessful efforts to close the RAG, further Federal educational initiatives will produce equally unhelpful results unless conceptual restructuring is implemented at the highest levels of government and academia. Retrospection, however, indicates that policy makers and educational researchers may be forever wedded to the egalitarian perspective that schools alone explain the RAG and that scant programmatic attention need be given to historic empirical evidence that human growth and development is largely contingent on biophysical and broad ecological factors.

As American demographics change, marked by increasing numbers and influence of African Americans and Hispanics, emphasis on closing the RAG has become an oft-expressed axiom of American politics.2 In his 2008 State of the Union Address, to standing congressional applause, President Bush declared, about the NCLB that was authorized by Congress, in 2002, that, "today no one can deny its results" (State of Union Address, 2008). African Americans and Hispanics, said Bush, have "posted new academic highs." Claiming minority academic achievement gains after six years of NCLB, Bush proposed a 2008 budget of $24.2 billion for continuation of NCLB, his most popular domestic program. …

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