Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Great School Debate: Choice, Vouchers, and Charters

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Great School Debate: Choice, Vouchers, and Charters

Article excerpt

The Great School Debate: Choice, Vouchers, and Charters, by Thomas L. Good and Jennifer S. Braden. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000. 273 pp. $29.99, paper.

Reviewed by Jerome B. Jones, Howard University.

According to the authors of The Great School Debate, the popular notion that current education reforms such as privatization, vouchers, and charter schools are responses to an identified crisis in public education requires further scrutiny. Although they acknowledge the developments reported in major national educational studies such as A Nation at Risk and its sequel, Prisoner of Time, and while they concede that some of the nation's urban schools are among the worst anywhere, Thomas Good and Jennifer Braden maintain that no such crisis exists. They further contend that the proposed responses to the fictitious crisis are in fact designed to address other concerns. As such, The Great School Debate assesses the validity of claims about the alleged crisis in public education and reviews proposed reform responses in relationship to that allegation.

The authors of this work maintain that the current crisis is based on the assumption of a growing gap between current and past U.S. students' achievement in schools. They present an array of data to convey that today's students are not academically inferior to those of yesterday. They begin with a systematic examination of the last 50 years of public education and educational reform in the United States, the latter of which they refer to as the "circularity of reform" because few new reforms offer much beyond that which had been implemented previously. They thoroughly discuss developments from the Sputnikinduced mathematics and science crisis through the adoption of Goals 2000, citing achievement data that buttresses their claims that the educational crisis is a manufactured overstatement of fact. They also provide evidence that a large portion of the alleged crisis has been manufactured by the popular media, which they claim is driven by sensationalism, and by politicians and businesspersons who are driven by political and market concerns that have little to do with improving education. …

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