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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Thursday, July 25, 2013

An Interview on Public Education Under Siege

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 school.”
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 and sociologists.
“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.”
 “A common 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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