Ideology and Educational Reform: Themes and Theories in Public Education

Ideology and Educational Reform: Themes and Theories in Public Education

Ideology and Educational Reform: Themes and Theories in Public Education

Ideology and Educational Reform: Themes and Theories in Public Education

Synopsis

Ten years of educational reform have not brought dramatic improvements. In Ideology and Educational Reform, David Paris traces the underlying ideological problems that make genuine reform difficult. These include different and often conflicting beliefs concerning the proper role of public education as well as the public's natural ambivalence about schools as government agencies. Paris describes three major themes in public education- common school, human capital, and clientelism. He critically evaluates current policies and proposed reforms associated with each of these topics, including moral education, the school-economy relationship, school choice, and the delivery of social services. Paris proposes better ways for dealing with ideological problems in school practice, and he suggests appropriate directions for policy reform.

Excerpt

It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries who have the law in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not believe in anything new until they have had the actual experience of it.

--Machiavelli

Nor would I hold up the sequence--from principles to problems to proffered solutions--as a perfect pattern laid up in some Platonic heaven, irreversible, like time's arrow. Though you would find it less tidy, it would not be absurd for you to start with your own proposed solutions and work backward. You might very well surprise yourself with the principles you found at the end, or would it actually be the beginning? In thought and rational discussion we must move back and forth along this path, which is not straight but triangular, with sides marked Principles, Problems, Solutions, except that at any point you may and almost certainly will generate a new triangle.

--Robert Dahl

Crisis, Consensus, and Optimism

In 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education declared that the United States was "a nation at risk" because of the poor performance of its schools. The report spoke in apocalyptic terms about a "rising tide of mediocrity" engulfing American education and compromising our economic and military position in the world: "If an unfriendly foreign power . . .

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