Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fasting in a Country that's Protest-Proof

From USA Today:

No Child Left Behind is "wreaking havoc in our inner-city schools," alleges education author Jonathan Kozol, 71, who today begins the 75th day of a partial hunger strike to protest the law.

Congress passed the education reform law with bipartisan support in 2001, and lawmakers this month are preparing to reauthorize it. The law seeks to get all students reading and doing math at grade level by 2014, mandating annual math and reading tests for about half of all children and sanctioning schools that don't keep improving.

Kozol on Monday said the law effectively has dumbed down school for poor, urban kids, creating "a parallel curriculum that would be rejected out-of-hand" in the suburbs.

Apparantly Kozol believes that poor kids are being subjected to a rote, mechanical style of teaching that crushes creativity and any sense that learning can be fun.

It's sort of sweet to know that anybody is still willing to engage in '60s-style protest theatrics, but this particular case is more than strange. One, it's over No Child Left Behind, not a hill you'd think anyone would care to die on. (Is NCLB good or bad? Don't ask me, and my son just spent six years enduring it.) Two, Jonathan Kozol, that passionate champion of poor children, is undertaking a partial fast because doctors have warned him a full-blown one might damage his heart? Well, what's the point of a fast if not to positively beckon death to your door? Isn't your own imminent demise a necessary part of the equation?

Kozol has lost 29 pounds, and he can ill afford even that. I wish he hadn't lost a single one - not for this cause. But still, if you're going to go down in a blaze of glory, you might as well really go down.

But more to the point: Jonathan, you're in the wrong country for this type of thing. Personal gestures of protest don't get Americans anywhere with their politicians; indeed, in many cases, it only strengthens their resolve. Case in point: our current president and his war. His aversion to Vietnam War-style demonstrations is so strong that a flotilla of burning monks would only stiffen his spine. Which is too bad, since the usual mechanisms of democracy don't seem to be getting us anywhere.

But perhaps that's another story.

Right now, here's my message: Eat, Jonathan, eat. No one cares.


NUREG said...

I've never "gotten" symbolic acts of conscience and I don't think they're particularly effective. It seems to me that those in power implement change in response to one of two things - realization of personal benefit or acquiescence to a greater power.

SnowDahlia said...

how about, becoming convinced that they were wrong?

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