Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rethinking Public Education

Even though Diane Ravitch's new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (New York: Basic Books, 2010), concerns K-12 education, there is much in it that ought to be of interest to university faculty. Ravitch, an education professor and involved in a number of efforts to reform public education, recounts how the reform efforts ultimately became a fixation with testing, driven by a business model, with a focus only on a portion of such education (mostly reading and math skills, aspects lending themselves to testing). Ravitch worries about public education being given over to foundations, philantropists, and profit-making corporations and removing this education from the normal democratic safeguards. It is a depressing read, documenting billions of dollars in expenditures and multiple efforts with modest, or often no, success. Much of this is a confession by Ravitch that her support for national curriculum standards and school choice has been misguided. Unfortunately, her concluding chapter while considering a new commitment to a more well-rounded education and stronger support for teacher preparation (among other things) rings hollow; it seems to offer a direction no better than where we have been and suggests that perhaps all we have learned is what doesn't work.

No comments: