Ideology and Educational Reform: Themes and Theories in Public Education

By David C. Paris | Go to book overview

4
Schools, Scapegoats, and Skills: Educational Reform and the Economy

The difference of natural talents in different men is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon so many occasions so much the cause, as the effect, of the division of labor. The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education. When they came into the world, and for the first six or eight years of their existence, they were, perhaps, very much alike, and neither their parents nor playfellows could perceive any remarkable difference. About that age, or soon after, they come to be employed in very different occupations. The difference of talents comes then to be taken notice of, and widens by degrees, till at last the vanity of the philosopher is willing to acknowledge scarce any resemblance

-- Adam Smit

To begin, there can be no denying that the skills of literacy and critical thinking that are properly associated with effective school programs are essential to a modern economy and that the schools ought to be held accountable for nurturing those skills in all children. The continued advance of those skills through the entire population will undoubtedly aid the development of the American economy. Nevertheless, American economic competitiveness with Japan and other nations is to a considerable degree a function of monetary, trade, and industrial policy. . . . Therefore to contend that the problem of international competitiveness can be solved by educational reform defined solely as school reform, is not merely utopian and millenialist, it is at best foolish and at worst a crass effort to direct attention away from those truly responsible for doing something about competitiveness and to lay the burden instead upon the schools

-- Lawrence Cremin

The common school theme is strongly egalitarian. It embodies the moral equality of all individuals and their equal status and rights as citizens. As discussed in Chapter 3, the notion that all individuals have some claim to

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