A dispute broke out last night on my Facebook wall regarding education reform, with some conservatives expressing abhorrence over any national control whatsoever. Instead, all deficiencies would be remedied with “local control,” as if our citizenry (so-called) really cares about schools in this “fallen world.”
I am no fan of Arne Duncan or the teachers unions. Duncan is Secretary of Education and I wrote how Harvard was honoring his appointment here (they presented him as a savior): https://clarespark.com/2010/09/22/links-to-arne-duncan-blogs/. As for teachers unions and their opposition to merit pay in tandem with their support for tenure, I got some, but insufficient, support given the gravity of the problem, for Campbell Brown’s ambitious reform program when I shared her announcement on Facebook.
Regarding Common Core, my initial fear that the humanities would disappear in favor of math and science proved groundless. I see nothing wrong with national standards and testing in math and science to map how various schools are keeping up with international competition. But teachers unions oppose close scrutiny as to teacher competence.
Social conservatives have several claims that will be criticized in this blog: 1. The problem of (progressive) education will be solved if Big Government is halted by abolishing The Department of Education; 2. Father-headed families will instill appropriate discipline (and jingoistic patriotism?) in American children.
Here are my objections, which are heated:
America is an unevenly developed country with respect to the value of education. It was only New England’s puritan tradition that fought for free public education (along with Protestant pluralism). The slave South was militantly opposed to anything that prepared their minions (including poor whites) to participate in a democracy. The New South made inroads in order to industrialize, but their bourgeois efforts toward equal opportunity were met with resistance from Bourbons and other regionalists (Agrarians).
Does local control mean that it is up to (backward states) to resist the demands of a competitive, globalized world? Are we, in any sense, a democratic republic, determined to lay the groundwork for an educated populace?
Given the uneven commitment to a “secular” education that could turn children away from their ancestors, it is understandable that “local control,” plus the stern father in the home, signifies for many the desire to keep their straying children in line, as if adolescent rebellion was some kind of new-fangled invention foisted upon them by “progressives.”
When I was an undergraduate and then a graduate student in the 1950s, the cry was for discipline and order in my required education classes. The exact content of student learning was irrelevant. It occurs to me now that there is massive confusion regarding the tasks assigned to families versus schools regarding student conduct. This was not something that was ever discussed. Rather we had nonsensical courses at Harvard (for instance) that stressed the poor and working class as a “sub-culture” that was focused on “trouble.” The less said about the unruly urban mobs and their living conditions, the better.
I find it hard to understand why persons my age or slightly younger (my Facebook friends), would be so distracted by aging and health care that the future of their descendants takes little space in their imaginations. I wonder if they were ever attached to their offspring except as narcissistic extensions of themselves.
There may be more concern about dogs these days than kids.