Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Past Is Still with Us

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Past Is Still with Us

Article excerpt

THIS MONTH, for the 10th consecutive October, the Kappan brings to its readers an analysis of the condition of public education. Some have asked, Is this kind of report still necessary? They seem to have forgotten the past.

Step back in time with me to 1983 and the release of A Nation at Risk. That U.S. Department of Education report, alarmingly negative about the performance of the public schools, put education on the front burner. For those of us in the profession, it proved to be a hot seat. In the years that followed, gratuitous slams at public education showed up everywhere. It was simply a given that U.S. public schools were in a state of collapse.

Then, in 1991, the Kappan published "Why Can't They Be Like We Were?" There were a lot of hostile reactions - "We already knew all that!" "We will answer Gerald Bracey's assertions and prove him wrong!" But no one ever stepped to the plate - and, within the year, the naysayers had switched from describing the public schools as "in a state of collapse" to describing them as "not good enough for the 21st century."

Now, it's nine years later. In the interim, through those October Kappan reports, readers have learned about the Sandia Report, about how demographic changes influence SAT scores, about the design flaws plaguing most international comparisons (including the 12th-grade sample in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study).

Along the way, we've also come to realize that some people do not welcome the truth about public school performance. There are those who campaign for vouchers, whether to feather their own nests directly or to make political hay with those who favor private over public education. There are those who conduct workshops aimed at fixing a "broken" system of public education. There are those who collect huge grants for research aimed at repairing that system.

And let me not mince words. None of those people is bound by truth.

A good example jumped up about the time I was getting ready to write this editorial. …

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