PEEK

Why Is Bush's Kid Brother Neil Getting Federal Funding?

It's all part of a tidy little racket involving No Child Left Behind and strange devices called COWS.
So here's a tidy little racket: After being installed president thanks to a voting fracas in a state conveniently governed by your brother, cook up a national educational curriculum and place at its center the standardized test. Give the curriculum a name with a wink and a nudge, like, oh, "No Child Left Behind." Then, funnel taxpayer money to equipping schools with a gimmicky learning device focused on standardized tests and sold by your other brother, the sadly anonymous one, whose only (fading) claim to fame is a role in the Savings and Loan scandal of the late 80s.

Despite having no experience in education, Neil Bush is the founder of a Texas-based company called Ignite! Learning, which, since 1999 has peddled strange little devices called "Curriculums on Wheels" (COWs) to schools state and nationwide. Rather than anything bovine, COWs actually resemble bright plastic droids or office chairs gone terribly wrong. Described as "computer/projectors," it's not really clear what they do or how they work, and a cursory look at the company's website ( http://www.ignitelearning.com/) does not help. (Apparently it involves swivel action.) Regardless, there are COWs for different subjects: the Math COW, the Science COW ("the ultimate classroom sidekick!") and the Social Studies COW.

No sign of a sex-ed COW.

Despite glowing testimonials on Ignite!'s website, many teachers are unimpressed, arguing the COWs focus on rote memorization rather than critical thinking skills. (Really, just not what one would expect from a Bush.) Citing the absence of any evidence whatsoever that these devices actually work--they have yet to be peer reviewed--one group has described the COW as "a very expensive device with limited use."

(Which is odd, considering the fact that, according to Ignite!, "companies including BP, Aramco Services Company, Shell, Apache Corporation, Washington Times and United Copper have impacted the lives of teachers and students by donating COWs to local school districts through the Adopt-A-COW program." My my. Why would such successful corporations be interested in a very expensive device with limited use? Hmm...)

Never mind; I suppose they should be lauded for participating in Adopt-a-COW, given that the things cost schools between $3,800-$4,200 per unit. And then there's the annual $1,000 schools must pay for "licensing, upkeep and upgrades." Pricey!
Liliana Segura is a writer and activist living in New York
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