School Choice or Best Systems: What Improves Education?

By Margaret C. Wang; Herbert J. Walberg | Go to book overview

7
Redefining Success: The San Antonio Case
Diana Lam1
Providence School Department

In a Harvard Business Review article, “From Affirmative Action to Affirming Diversity, ” Roosevelt Thomas (1990) noted that “mistakes at the cutting edge are different—and potentially more valuable—than mistakes elsewhere” (p. 117). He argued that people on the cutting edge “need some kind of pioneer training. But at the very least they need to be told they are pioneers, that conflicts and failures come with the territory, and that they will be judged accordingly” (p. 117).

At the height of the polio epidemic in the United States, there was a great deal of debate and dissent over which direction future research should take. At the time, there was not yet a clear understanding of how polio was transmitted. There was naturally a great concern for those stricken with polio, particularly children, and tremendous efforts were made to find new ways to ameliorate their suffering.

The prevailing treatment was the use of the iron lung, and it was here that the debate raged within the professional field and among the public. Should scarce dollars be directed toward improving—hopefully perfecting—the iron lung or should funds go into research that may or may not yield a vaccine? Development of the vaccine by Jonas Salk and his colleagues was the first breakthrough after many years of research. A successful public education campaign for the vaccine's acceptance and use was the second breakthrough, making iron lungs obsolete.

In education today, we get sidetracked by a similar debate over

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