Children as Pawns: The Politics of Educational Reform

Children as Pawns: The Politics of Educational Reform

Children as Pawns: The Politics of Educational Reform

Children as Pawns: The Politics of Educational Reform

Excerpt

How can we improve our schools?

Ever since the publication of A Nation at Risk in 1983, the state of America's schools has been the subject of public concern, media scrutiny, and political outrage. Virtually everyone agrees that the nation's schools have problems, but they disagree about the nature and extent of those problems. The list of proclaimed flaws is long, and sometimes contradictory: bad teachers, indifferent students, disinterested parents, faulty curriculums, a lack of morality or religion, destructive teacher unions, rigid bureaucrats, too much federal interference, not enough federal support, unequal funding methods, and more. The proposed solutions are equally varied, and range from relatively simple to mind-numbingly complex: better teacher training, vouchers, accountability through high-stakes testing, changes in school governance, standards, more money for schools, charter schools, and dozens of other ideas large and small are advocated by interested parties. Despite years of discussion, and several waves of school reform in individual schools, school districts, and state governments, the question remains: How can we improve our schools?

Any intelligent discussion of “improving” education leads to questions about what it is that we want public schooling to achieve. Do we want to provide real opportunity for all children? Do we want to give whatever help is needed for children who start school behind or who struggle in school to “catch up,” or do we want to provide superb education for the children who seem most ready to move forward quickly? Do we want to train children to be good citizens, or to have a certain moral view of the world? (And if so, which one?) Do we want to prepare children to be good workers as adults, or to be independent thinkers? In an ideal world we . . .

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