“See No Child’s Left Behind”

In 2003 I submitted a satire to Phi Delta Kappan.  I should have saved the postage.  The editor rejected it, saying, “It’s not funny.”  Driving home that day, I thought, “Of course it’s not funny,  Jonathan Swift was not “ha ha — funny,” either.  Good satire is biting and ridiculous — not hilarious.

Later that year the American Association of School Administrators solicited reflections on No Child Left Behind.  They published my satire in The School Administrator.

You be the judge.  Is it biting, a little bit funny, and a lot ridiculous?

A Standards Satire

The following satire was rejected by one editor who said, “It’s not funny.”  At first I was disappointed. I thought I had failed as a satirist because he was right — it’s not funny in the sense of being hilarious. (It was later accepted for publication in The School Administrator, February, 2004).

Then I remembered enjoying Jonathan Swift as an English major.  He was a classic satirist, but his works never made me laugh or think, “This is hilarious!”

So, be warned — this satire is not funny (although astute readers will find word plays and political commentary). In fact I even describe the ending as sad. But, if you know the history of American public education, the whole piece is sad because you know that its silliness is no more silly than today’s educational politics.

See No Child’s Left Behind (A Standards Satire)

Many are familiar with Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” An emperor was duped by scoundrels who claimed they could weave the finest clothing in the world. The key to their scheme was convincing the Emperor that their magic cloth was visible only to those who were not fools or incompetents. They got rich by demanding gold and fine fabrics, which they kept for themselves, while weaving nothing.

The first of the double ironies at the end of the story was that the Emperor, not wanting to be considered a fool or an incompetent, and believing he was wearing fine clothes, paraded naked down Main Street — proving himself to be an incompetent fool. The second irony was that the adults, hoping not to be seen as fools, denied the obvious, proving themselves to be fools, too. Only a small child had the sense to say, “He’s got nothing on.”

The following story tells what happened many years, later, in a federal republic of fifty empires, each with its own emperor. These emperors knew their ancestor had been tricked by scoundrel weavers, so they were wary of weavers. They rarely associated with any, and didn’t seek their advice about clothing. Nevertheless, the prime responsibility of each empire, was to provide citizens with an equal clothing opportunity.
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