We just enjoyed a great romp, watching “Torchwood: Children of Earth” on BBC, a week-long miniseries. It was clever and artfully done, although we thought the ending was disappointing (no spoilers here though; you should see for yourself).
In the story, aliens visited England years ago and were given a “gift” of a dozen children in order to get a remedy for a terrible virus that would kill millions. In the mini-series, the present-day aliens are back for more: children. They want 10% of the world’s population of children (what for? no spoilers: watch the series). The British officials don’t want to give up millions of children, but the aliens threaten planetary destruction if children are not delivered, so the British government agrees.
But how to choose which children?
You’ll never guess! In a British version of No Child Left Behind, test scores are meticulously kept from schools all over the nation, so everyone knows which are the high-scoring schools and which are the failing schools. The Brits’ answer is simple: just give the aliens the children from the failing schools, since those children are obviously inferior.
One of the ministers points out that this would amount to racial discrimination, since the higher-scoring schools serve the higher-income (and usually white) children, but this comment is overlooked.
What delicious irony! Lower scores equal lower worth–so sacrifice those children! With a sideways glance, “Torchwood” skewers such programs as No Child Left Behind.
It’s nominally true that our American student test scores are lower than those from other countries. But how can we compare America’s test scores to those in countries like Japan or Sweden? Those smaller countries have far more homogeneous populations and cultures, with far more resources to serve far fewer students.
In America, we embrace people from many cultures, economies, walks of life, and points of view, in a vastly larger geography. Of course we want to improve education everywhere, but please don’t take the easy path of accusing bad teachers and bad schools. Most of the time, schools struggle to do the best they can with the limited resources they have. Most of the time, teachers are good people with good hearts, working as best they can to serve a wildly diverse population.
Give public education the support it needs. Watch out for those aliens. . . .the school they demand for sacrifice may be yours.