Segments in this Video

No Child Left Behind vs. Civic Engagement (04:04)


Children participate in democratic processes in class and learn key issues that underlie elections. The practice of public schools has never been about teaching civic engagement. NCLB focuses on math and reading, not knowledge about democracy.

No Child Left Behind Promotes Unbalanced Curriculum (03:28)

In spirit, NCLB was meant to provide every child with a quality education, which would be defined by test performance on math and reading skills. In fact, the curriculum has narrowed to teach to the tests. Is that quality education?

NCLB Creates Non-Critical Thinkers (04:07)

Teachers assert that No Child Left Behind is creating a generation who will be unable to think critically or problem-solve when they mature. Public education should create a population in which democracy can thrive. NCLB does not allow for discussion of social issues.

NCLB: Hidden Curriculum (03:40)

Proponents of NCLB argue that a curriculum based on math and language arts provides the skills necessary to function in a democratic society. Other educators argue that children need to learn critical thinking skills early on.

Rote Learning and Failure (03:40)

Rote learning and assignments that are tested with multiple-choice answers do not teach children to ask questions or associate thinking with learning. No Child Left Behind creates the very situation it purports to eliminate: children who fail continue to fail.

Mechanized Education (03:56)

The U.S. graduates 75% of its students, whereas other Western countries do much better. High stakes testing without investment in children's future as citizens of a democracy promotes mechanized education and loss of children's interest.

No Child Left Behind: Artificial Education (04:50)

A science teacher argues that the NCLB Act is antithetical to everything he has learned about education. He calls it artificial education. Teachers feel their skills are devalued and that they are losing control of what happens in their classrooms.

Children Learn Democratic Principles (03:44)

At a private school, teachers have the freedom to teach students about democracy and the privileges democracy brings them. However, many people believe children do not need to learn about democratic principles.

Fragmented High School Curriculum (02:42)

Because the fragmented curriculum does not give students a coherent framework for analyzing social and political events, many argue that for civics education to be effective, it must be taught across the curriculum.

High School: Critical Thinking Skills (03:24)

High-school students discuss their feelings about standardized tests relative to succeeding in life. The focus on multiple-choice tests takes away the love of learning for its own sake. An English teacher uses political rhetoric to teach critical thinking skills.

High-School Civics: Apathy vs. Engagement (04:42)

A social studies teacher argues that the lack of critical analysis of current events and rhetoric creates an apathetic society that does not question government. Students engage themselves in civic issues in a civics classroom.

High School Civics Class Creates Democratic Stakeholders (02:05)

Civics instruction can evolve from students' everyday actions. For example, what is the real cost of a hamburger in terms of deforestation, and other environmental and human rights issues. The lessons extend to nutrition, diet, and health also.

Civic Dialogue: Lessons in Truth and Reconciliation (03:53)

In a private academy in Palo Alto, students learn through participation about problem resolution, truth, forgiveness, and tolerance. They re-enact the South African Reconciliation Commission hearings.

Civic Education in Public Schools (03:42)

Kindergarten children learn about compassion for local people who are disadvantaged. In one school district, civic education is the core of the curriculum. Children develop a sense of personal power and personal responsibility.

Cross-Curriculum Civic Education (03:43)

Children learn civic responsibility across the curriculum in a school dedicated to delving deeper into their thoughts about themselves and others. They develop their social conscience and improve language arts and math scores at the same time.

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Democracy Left Behind: NCLB and Civic Education

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Wonder why voters are not more informed about issues which underlie election campaigns? While schools should play a vital role, their ability to serve a civic mission has been severely constrained by a narrowed curriculum and increasing focus on test scores. This program demonstrates how difficult it is for many students to understand what their education means in the larger context of the society and world they live in, while also showcasing alternative models that can lead to an informed and engaged citizenry.  (58 minutes)

Length: 58 minutes

Item#: BVL39484

Copyright date: ©2007

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

Bronze Remi Award, WorldFest Houston International Film Festival


“No matter what your politics or starting values, this film will be eye opening and richly informative.”  Bruce Fuller, Professor of Education and Public Policy, UC Berkeley


“This film will foster discussion and hopefully action on the part of all who see it.”  George Wood, Director, The Forum for Education and Democracy


“Anyone concerned about the future of our democratic society and our public schools should watch Democracy Left Behind. It exposes the devastating impact the No Child Left Behind law has had by narrowing the curriculum for our children.”  Joel Packer, Director, Education Policy and Practice


“The video raises a number of profound questions about maintaining one of the fundamental purposes our nation’s founders had in mind in envisioning a system of public schools in the first place: to develop informed citizens.”  Patrick Phillips, Executive Director, Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools

Performance Rights

Prices include public performance rights.