Education Reform Is Necessary, but It’s Been Hijacked

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In the blog, “Bridging Differences,” educator Deborah Meier’s new conversation partner, Pedro Noguera, recognizes two crucial necessities for the future of our country: (1) moving toward equity in public education and (2) changing the Obama administration’s mind about means and goals for reform.   Noguera writes:

I’m still not sure about what it will take to get the Obama Administration to adopt a different approach to education reform, but I think this is what we have got work at doing for the next few months as they begin plotting their direction for the next four years.

One thing I know for sure is that we have got to make a commitment to equity in education a central component of whatever we they do.

His entire piece is here.  Thanks to Janice Resseger, Minister for Public Education and Witness of the United Church of Christ, for bringing it to my attention.

The big problem was presented well by Jonathan Kozol in his book, The Shame of the Nation: the Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.  The title alone speaks to the first of the necessities named above.  The playing field is not level or even close to level.  The biggest determining factor in “success” on standardized tests is the parents’ income, which means the very word “standardized” covers up for a falsehood.  A second, obviously related, factor is the parents’ own level of formal education.  That these two factors are so dominant in predicting testing success means all our expensive and time-consuming testing serves to perpetuate the advantage of the already advantaged while appearing to justify the failure of the already disadvantaged.  So, as the American public, we are paying huge sums of money to keep things the way they have been while enriching private corporations, but, wait, that’s not quite true.  All the time wasted, not only on the wretchedly excessive testing, but also on teaching to that testing, is lowering the level of all public education.  So, only the truly privileged, whose parents can afford to send them to top private schools, are getting the real advantage.  The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.

Anxious parents, do you really want your children trained to score well on tests but not to think for themselves, solve problems in life that come without multiple choices from which to select the one “right” answer, and be prepared to go on learning as long as they live?  What good is so-called education if it’s value ends when the last standardized test is done?  “Pencils down!  Your schooling is completed, and now you’re on your own and unprepared.  Good luck.”

Like the “drug problem,” I suspect, the breaking up and selling off of American public education will not attract media attention and arouse public outcry until it hits the more affluent suburbs and hits them hard.  So far, the mainstream media have been acting as cheerleaders for the corporate takeover of our schools and raiding of public education funds, mindlessly parroting attacks on teachers and their unions.  As it was with the “drug problem,” so with the corporate raiding of our public education systems, by then it will be too late to stop the devastation.  The goal of educating (not just training) all American children may be lost beyond recall.

Now is the time.  President Obama must be forced to come to his senses about education reform and to match his administration’s policies and actions to his better public statements about the educational needs of children.  Public education is crucial to American democracy.  Equality in public education will require a great reform effort involving far more than just our schools, but what is currently being called “reform” is moving us quite rapidly toward the death of public education and robbery of the American people.  More and more vultures are gathering.

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