An Interview with Neal Mc Cluskey: Buying Votes at the Last Minute or Ravaging the Constitution?

Feb 14, 2012 by

Neal Mc Cluskey

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

  1. Well, it seems Obama is at it again- meddling in things the Federal government has no business in. What’s happening this time?

He’s doing what he has threatened to do for a while now: Issue waivers to states to get out of No Child Left Behind, but only if the states promise to adopt reforms to his liking, including adopting national curriculum standards. It’s really piling unconstitutional action on unconstitutional action: Not only is federal meddling in education unconstitutional,  but the President is now breaking the separation of powers by attaching demands to waivers, something that NCLB does not allow and is, really, the executive branch legislating.

  1. Let’s face it. NCLB is probably the most unpopular thing since Prohibition- Right or Wrong?

I don’t know about since prohibition, but it certainly has few defenders. It is pretty clearly a failure, born of political concerns – the desire of politicians to appear “tough” – rather than sensible policy. But that doesn’t mean that unilaterally changing the law, in ways that are far from proven and are clearly unconstitutional, is acceptable. It just concentrates power in even fewer federal hands.

  1. Do you think anyone in the Congress or the Senate really understands what it is like to try to teach in a room of 20-25-30 kids, keep classroom control and provide instruction?

I bet some, perhaps even many, do, but I don’t think that matters much. What matters is the appearance of being “no excuses” tough, and perhaps a genuine desire to try to force positive change no matter how hard it might be to actually do so.

  1. Now, really despicable seems to be the provisions, or contingencies that Obama is trying to impose- tell us about them.

Worst, in my estimation, is the effort to impose national curriculum standards, under the guise of “college- and career-ready standards.” The only ways to meet that requirement are to either have adopted the Common Core standards, or have a state university system certify standards as college- and career-ready. Oh, and states have to give a statewide test aligned with those standards. Not coincidentally, the administration’s “Race to the Top” program essentially mandated adoption of the Common Core standards, and is funding the development of national tests to go with them.

The other two, major requirements are that states intervene in the operation of the lowest performing fifteen percent of schools, and create teacher and principal evaluation systems that include assessments of student progress over time.

  1. Is there any place in the Constitution that gives the President the authority to make these sweeping changes?

None. But, it seems, few people care about that. It appears the President wants to be seen as the savior from NCLB, and almost no one wants to be perceived as the law’s protector.

  1. Are the people in the Senate sitting on their hands while Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac and other bogus organizations run rampant?

It often feels that way, though Sallie Mae has been reined in a bit with the ending of federal guaranteed student loans. But both are often given passes because they are federal creations supposedly intended to help people, even if their help results in net hurt.

  1. Any word from John Boehner or is he dealing with the contraceptive stuff that also seems to be way beyond the bounds of propriety?

I think, purposely, he stays out of a lot of fights. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) has spoken out against the waivers, but this blatant and dangerous executive overreach should be loudly decried by all in Washington. Fundamental constitutional provisions must be defended for the benefit of all.

After all, even if we are inclined to agree with the goals of a particular violation, what happens once we’ve shredded the Constitution and suddenly someone we don’t like comes to power?

It reminds me of my favorite exchange from the play (and movie) A Man for All Seasons:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

  1. Should we really be blaming Bush for No Child Left Behind or the deceased Senator Ted Kennedy and cohorts?

I especially blame Bush, who consciously jettisoned decades of Republican opposition to federal education intervention in order to create a federal command-and-control structure.

  1. What other aspects of skullduggery are on the horizon or have I neglected to ask about ?

What most people are completely unaware of is the federally-funded national tests coming down the pike to go with the Common Core. To the extent that the standards themselves do not prescribe curricula – and they are most certainly intended to give shape to curricula – the tests will. It is through the tests that the standards rubber will meet the curriculum road, especially if they are incorporated into federal “accountability.” They are scheduled to be fully operational in the 2014-15 school year.

  1. What have I neglected to ask?

I think you got it.

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