"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Deborah Meier Gets Real in Mother Jones Interview

Here is a crisp excerpt from that interview:

MJ: What education changes do you think we'll see after the 2008 presidential election?

DM: Things will be worse with McCain and better with Obama, but I don't know how much better. Because it's all bipartisan. If you define yourself as someone fixing education, there's nothing short-range you can do to fix education directly. It's labor intensive. You have to change the way people act. You have to convince people, and change people. Mindset changes are not happening from change in legislation. Like desegregation. We legally got rid of legal segregation, but schools are still segregated. You can demand people have better math understanding, but it depends how you interpret math understanding, and what you want it for, and if you think everybody can and should have that.

MJ: You don't sound like a big fan of federal education legislation.

DM: I'm not in favor. [Federal legislation] can do something about poverty and resources for schools. And the president can play a psychological role. When the president is a dummy, putting down smart people, it makes it harder for kids to know he is serious. I don't want pedagogy and curriculum decided on the federal level. Bush was a dumbing-down model about what it means to be an educated person. Another way the president can play a role in education is by modeling it, by not telling lies and not making up history. But directly, the federal government can do something about resources for more well-educated teachers, more leisure time for kids and families, and time for teachers to think. If we want to leap forward, we need to rethink what schools are like as institutions. If you walk into a school, do you taste and smell education? Is it a place that respects education, or is it a factory looking for higher test scores?

MJ: How is Bush tied to the legacy of education as it stands today?

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