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Society must challenge ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ in schools, Bush says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Speaking about his administration’s No Child Left Behind education reform law at an elementary school in Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 8, President Bush said, “This society of ours must challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Every child has the potential to learn, the president said, and no child should be singled out as one not worth the time and effort of quality teaching.

“See, if you … believe certain children can’t learn, then the tendency is just to shuffle them through the system,” Bush said. “If you don’t believe every child has worth, then the system tends just to give up on the child and move them through. And then at the end of high school, people can’t read, and we’ve created a social problem.”

Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act in January 2002, giving public schools groundbreaking educational reform based on four main principles: stronger accountability for results, more freedom for states and communities, encouragement for proven education methods, and more choices for parents.

He visited Kirkpatrick Elementary School in Nashville because he deemed it “an example of what is possible for parents and for educators to make sure that not a single child gets left behind.” The school’s principle was recognized nationally last year when she and her staff went door to door to boost participation in tutoring from an initial 25 students to 148, according to The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville.

Referencing the law’s emphasis on accountability, Bush said the No Child Left Behind Act “basically says we believe in high expectations, and we believe it so strongly we want to measure to see if those expectations are being met.”

In return for federal money, state and local officials must ensure that their schools measure up to the standards specified by the law.

To his critics who say the No Child Left Behind Act leads to testing students too much, Bush said his attitude is that “in order to diagnose a problem, you have to measure it in the first place. You cannot solve a problem until you measure it in the first place.”

The act also funds reading programs because, as Bush said, “If you can’t read, you’re not going to do math, and if you can’t read, you can’t be a scientist; if you can’t read, you can’t understand history. If you can’t read, you’re going nowhere, if the truth be known.”

More educational options for parents is another segment of the law, paving the way for parents to move their children to another public school if the one in their district is not achieving what is expected.

“We are challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations,” Bush said in closing. “We believe every child can learn. And I’m convinced when these programs are fully implemented, children will learn and America will be better off.”

Glen Schultz, director of Christian School Resources at the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Christian Resources, provided Baptist Press with some thoughts on Christian schools and homeschools compared to the public schools that No Child Left Behind is meant to improve. The emphasis on reading is something Christian schools and homeschools share with the president’s education reform law.

“Christian school and homeschool participants take literacy very seriously. They would believe that education should strive to see every child reach his or her full potential according to how God has gifted each child,” Schultz said in written comments. “This is one of the reasons why test scores among Christian school and homeschool students are usually at or above grade level.

“Because of the economy of Christian schools, parents will not continue to pay tuition if their children are not performing to their full potential,” he continued. “Therefore, Christian schools will strive to maintain academic excellence and not look to the government for additional funding for tutoring, etc. Parents who homeschool or enroll their children in Christian schools are usually more involved in their children’s education and that also lends itself to better performance on behalf of most students.”

Another factor is that of ultimate motivation, he said.

“Secular education is motivated from a temporal perspective. The drive for students to achieve academically is usually tied to jobs and comfortable lifestyles,” Schultz said. “On the other hand, biblically based education also focuses on the eternal perspective. Every person is responsible to God to develop his or her abilities so that God can use them to advance His Kingdom. Striving to achieve this goal will also impact their life here on earth.”

Schultz also said Christian school and homeschool educators not only want none of their students left behind academically but they also sacrifice and work with their students so that none of them are left behind spiritually.

“Every child needs to know the truth about God, creation, mankind, moral order and purpose,” Schultz said.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: LEAVING NO CHILD BEHIND and MAKING AMERICA BETTER OFF.

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