I will post a new entry every few weeks. Some will be new writing and some will be past work that has relevance today. The writing will deal in some way with the themes that have been part of my teaching and writing life for decades:
•teaching and learning; •educational opportunity; •the importance of public education in a democracy; •definitions of intelligence and the many manifestations of intelligence in school, work, and everyday life; and •the creation of a robust and humane philosophy of education.
If I had to sum up the philosophical thread that runs through my work, it would be this: A deep belief in the ability of the common person, a commitment to educational, occupational, and cultural opportunity to develop that ability, and an affirmation of public institutions and the public sphere as vehicles for nurturing and expressing that ability.
My hope is that this blog will foster an online community that brings people together to continue the discussion.
This interview follows up on my last blog post
on Public Education Under Siege, edited by Michael B. Katz and me.It was conducted by Joanie Harmon for Ampersand,
the on-line magazine of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information
Studies—though this version is slightly adbridged.
“We absolutely need to address the terrible
quality of education that many poor and vulnerable populations of students
receive. This has to be a national priority.But to achieve any level of equality for these children, we need to
understand the big picture of our schools, a picture that includes reformers’
concerns about assessment, teacher quality, and teacher education, as well as
the many other social and economic factors that affect a child’s performance in
Public Education Under Siege seeks to fill in the
gaps in the mainstream view of school reform, among them, topics that are
typically not addressed by government, philanthropies who invest in education,
or even high-profile figures in the reform movement.Thus the book includes historians, experts on
learning, public policy scholars, teacher educators, and political economists
“So, for example, some of the [book’s]
contributors focus on the significant inequality of funding for schools, the
political and legal history of that funding inequality, and the way true school
reform will be stymied until we can create new ways to frame this issue,” says
Rose. “And some of the contributors focus on other kinds of inequality: on
segregation, for example, and the many subtle and not-so-subtle ways that
residential and educational segregation is maintained, with negative
consequences for low-income children of color.”
“Yet another manifestation of inequality is
found in the connection between race, social class, and the criminalization of
children, for there are significant disparities in the punishment—and legal
ramifications—meted out to kids in poorer verses wealthier schools. These and
other manifestations of inequality aren’t part of our mainstream discussion of
school reform, yet they have an effect on how kids do in school.”
retort from many reformers to criticism of their approach is that the critics
are defenders of the status quo,” he states. “But, in fact, many of those who
have concerns with mainstream reform raise legitimate concerns about the way
the school curriculum has been narrowed: for example, social studies, the arts,
and humanities trimmed back, the inadequacies of standardized tests to get at
the full scope of learning, the functional, even punitive, nature of the
education that results from such policies, and so on. Our contributors
bring a number of perspectives to the current reform scene, which, we think,
broadens our understanding of the limits of current reform, and, more
importantly, broadens our understanding of education.”
Rose notes that the focus on economic austerity
and rising national debt has resulted in attempts by political conservatives to
change the definition of education from a public to a private good, in light of
the current cuts to social programs.
“The notion that schooling is something that
benefits all is not as prominent as it has been at other times in our history,”
Rose says. “I think that certain
business leaders, for example, are very much in support of education because
they connect it to workforce development. Although, those same leaders are
fighting higher taxes, minimum wage laws, and other initiatives that would
affect the quality of education. Just think of what it would mean for primary
grade achievement for all children to have adequate eye and hearing care.”
Rose says that while it may be impossible to
depoliticize education, the argument made by liberal, centrist, and conservative
economists alike for educating the nation’s youth – and future workforce – is
watertight with benefits to all sectors of society.
Rose cites the example of California, a state
whose economic straits were historically preceded by an exemplary vision to
educate its citizens during the post-World War II era of economic growth.
During that time, he says, California was highly ranked nationwide in per pupil
spending, and a state master plan was put into place to ensure a quality
education from kindergarten through college.
“Part of the rationale was an understanding of
the public dimension of education,” Rose says. “A robust education system has
private benefit for people, but it also has a significant public benefit, both
social and economic.”
“Schools aren’t isolated institutions.
Mainstream reform tends to view schools narrowly, considering their immediate
bureaucracies, the unions that some of their teachers belong to, and the
schools of education that certify those teachers. But the influences that
affect schools go beyond unions and education schools. Schools exist in
history, and a social and political context, and they’re powerfully affected by
the economy in the communities that surround them.If we don’t understand and respond to these
multiple influences, then we won’t get far in improving the schools that are
the focus of contemporary reform.”
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