Friday, March 28, 2014

Diane Ravitch — Public Education: Who Are the Corporate Reformers?

This is a hugely important issue socially, politically and economically and it is not a single issue but rather a web of interconnected issues touching almost every sphere of life beginning with early childhood rearing. Education shapes a society more than anything else.

The great value of public education that is more or less standardized is that it provides the basis for a common culture, which is extremely significant in a pluralistic and multicultural society like the US. Without a "common core," and I don't mean the common core as it is used presently in education, the society can be expected to be become increasingly divergent and divisive, as well as layered.

However, achieving a common core socially is not the same as introducing a common core into the curriculum and teaching methodology as presently proposed. Cookie cutter approaches don't work at that well other than with cookies and other items that can be standardized. Human beings cannot be standardized and it would probably not be optimal even if they could be.

We need maximum diversity compatible with foundational unity. Entering the global age, that foundational unity must be the universality of humanity as a species that is ecologically interdependent with other species and the environment.

Reading, writing and 'rithmetic will not longer cut it. Nor will emphasis on STEM, especially at the expense of a liberal education.

The primary goal of education in a pluralistic multicultural democracy must be oriented to self-governance by the population itself with a view to common purpose. This is stated quite eloquently in the preamble to the US constitution:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The educational system that America has today is a holdover from the past and it may not be suitable for the new era that the country and world is embarking upon. We need to be asking what the opportunities and challenges are and how to meet them agilely in a time of when the pace of change is accelerating exponentially. New opportunities are bringing new levels of challenge that are orders of magnitude greater than previously experienced.

Is the educational system keeping pace? Would greater privatization increase the opportunities or exacerbate the challenges? Can the present system be reformed from within, or is an overhaul required? What questions do we need to be asking? I don't think we are asking the right questions yet. People seem to be too fixed on providing answers before the problem has been explored sufficiently.

Bill Moyers & Co.
Public Education: Who Are the Corporate Reformers?
Diane Ravitch

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