About the Blog

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.


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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Revision of Why School?

            The New Press has just issued Why School?: Reclaiming Education for All of Us in paperback, and I used the occasion to significantly revise the original. As with the original, the new edition offers, to the best of my ability, a humanistic and democratic rationale for education in America, K–12 though college and adult school—a different vision than that in reigning technocratic, economistic education policy. I added treatment of Race to the Top, Common Core State Standards, and the increased role of business in school policy. I also wrote new chapters on currently popular character education, on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other expansions of on-line learning, and on poverty and adult education. I conclude with some thoughts and tips on writing about school.

            I print below the Preface and Table of Contents:

Why School? comes from a professional lifetime in classrooms, creating and running educational programs, teaching and researching, writing and thinking about education and human development. It offers a series of appeals for big-hearted social policy and an embrace of the ideals of democratic education—from the way we define and structure opportunity to the way we respond to a child adding a column of numbers. Collectively, the chapters provide a bountiful vision of human potential, illustrated through the schoolhouse, the workplace, and the community.

            We need such appeals, I think, because we have lost our way.

            We live in an anxious age and seek our grounding, our assurances in ways that don’t satisfy our longing—that, in fact, make things worse. We’ve lost hope in the public sphere and grab at market-based and private solutions, which undercut the sharing of obligation and risk and keep us scrambling for individual advantage. Though we pride ourselves as a nation of opportunity and a second chance, our social policies can be terribly ungenerous. As we try to improve our schools, we rush to one-dimensional solutions, to technological and structural “game changers” that all too often lead to new problems. We’ve narrowed the purpose of schooling to economic competitiveness, our kids becoming economic indicators. And we’ve reduced our definition of human development and achievement—that miraculous growth of intelligence, sensibility, and the discovery of the world—to a test score.

Historically, national discussions about education have always had a political dimension to them and often have been contentious. But the current debates are so politicized and combative that positions easily get simplified and hardened, and nuance and possible areas of agreement are lost in the fiery polemics. We as a country and, certainly, the children in our schools, deserve better. Why School? was written in the midst of these debates and to be sure exhibits a point of view, but I hope that the book can contribute in some small way to a different kind of discussion of why we educate in America.

Introduction: Why School?
1.     In Search of a Fresh Language of Schooling
2.     Finding Our Way: The Experience of Education
3.     No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Spirit of Democratic Education
4.     Business Goes to School
5.     Intelligence in the Workplace and the Schoolhouse
6.     On Values, Work, and Opportunity
7.     Being Careful about Character
8.     Reflections on Standards, Teaching, and Learning
9.     MOOCs and Other Wonders: Education and High-Tech Utopia
10. Re-Mediating Remediation
11. Soldiers in the Classroom
12. The Inner Life of the Poor
13. Finding the Public Good through the Details of Classroom Life
Conclusion: The Journey Back and Forward

Afterword: Writing About School

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1 comment:

  1. I agree with what you're saying about how students are pretty much being manipulated and taken advantage of while they're trying to get an education in the United States. I think college administrators and the education bureau have increased wages for classes and room and board, purposefully knowing circumstances for certain students, especially in this economy. I do not agree with it, and I think it's unfair that education in the United States, is like a secret private investment, and not much of a right, anymore. The fact that they do this to young adults in the US, to me, is sickening and wrong. If education doesn’t improve over time, financially, I think the drop in college students will increase, because logically speaking a job to support yourself and put food on your plate with a roof over your head, is going to be more of anyone’s priority than school.