Column #35, posted April 26, 2007
One More Time: Rich Folks Misunderstand Education Reform
I am glad that some rich guys have decided it is important to fix American education. Their method – get the candidates to take education reform seriously - sounds good on the surface but it will be another waste of money – the same money that could actually fix the nation’s schools.
How do I know this? I know why politicians will never seriously tackle education reform. Here are the constituencies they would have to antagonize in order to get reform to actually happen:
1. Teachers – Teachers would have to teach differently and no one really wants to change what they do on a day to day basis. True, teacher’s lives have been made so miserable by previous politician’s attempts at reform that they are more open to change than ever, but still, they really don’t want to have to go to school to learn new methodologies.
2. Publishers – Big corporations have a real stake in education staying the way it has been. They don’t want to throw out all their textbooks and start over. They would spend a lot of money making sure this doesn't happen.
3. Testing companies – Politicians have helped create an enormous industry that prepares and grades tests. They won’t give up their business without a fight. No real reform will take place if teachers are still teaching to the test and if we continue to teach stuff that is easy to test rather than giving kids open ended issues to think about and real workplace skills.
4. Universities – Any real school reform means changing how universities conduct admissions and convincing them to teach in college the subjects they have foisted upon the high schools (like algebra). This will never happen since it would also mean that colleges would need to interview students instead of relying upon grades and test scores for admission.
5. Parents – Parents tend to think school is a competition and they reinforce all the testing and grading in the hopes that their kid will win. In addition they believe that whatever they learned in school is what should be taught despite the fact that they have since forgotten all that they learned in school.
The real question is understanding what school is about. John Adams said that school is about learning to make a living and learning to live. George Bush thinks school is about passing tests (not that he could pass them,)
Rich guys – Help build an alternative to the present school system with your money. The current system simply cannot change. Too many vested interests in the status quo. No one who is running for President will ever demand substantive change.