Pencils Down



Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) proposed a new grading scheme for state public and charter schools. The new wrinkle in his scheme involves using letter grades (i.e. A, B, C, …). I think that this new grading scheme will be better, because it is more visceral than the 14 point scheme it would replace. I mentioned this at the dinner table to Anne. This got her going and she told me what she really thought about it and No Child Left Behind, the root of Nixon’s grading scheme. She cited how No Child not only tests students and by proxy their teachers and schools, but it also demands continual progress, always raising the bar.

I was reminded of Walmart and its goal to always lowering prices. Walmart continually increases the pressure on its suppliers, by demanding more, but doesn’t offer anything in return for its lower prices. No Child demands higher test scores, but doesn’t offer any reward for success either.

Whether it is Walmart or No Child, you can only squeeze for so long, before there is no more. Somehow at this point the conversation devolved into an analogy involving Lance Armstrong and doping. I think that the point being made was that we would eventually have to resort to drugs to maintain No Child’s projected learning curve. In stream of consciousness fashion I thought of an xkcd comic strip that I had read just the other day.

The following is my derived transcript of an apropos strip, “Steroids“, from my favorite web comic, xkcd: Disembodied alien asks, “Explain to me this ‘steroid scandal'” The human female [Drive by Anne: You can tell the gender in xkcd? Me: She usually has hair, he not so much.] answers, “Well, uh … We humans are sacks of chemicals which stay alive by finding other chemicals and putting them inside us. We hold contests to see which humans are the fastest and strongest. But some humans eat chemicals that make them too fast and strong. And they win contests!” “That sounds bad”, the alien commiserates. She agrees, “It’s awful!”

At this point I went off on my own little tangent. I thought yeah, let’s drug the little kids and I don’t just mean with Ritalin. We could enlist the pharmaceutical industry in this endeavor. We could make it another Manhattan Project. It would make a great sop to this already heavily subsidized business. I bet that we could synthesis messenger RNA pills for the entire curriculum.

We could layoff all the faculty, keeping only the school nurse to administer these meds and maybe an assistant principal or two to deal with any side effects. Out of work educators could find employment at Walmart and greet their former students, when they come in to buy their back-to-school supply of drugs.

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