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

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Jay P. Greene Celebrates Victory

I wouldn't normally post/quote the thoughts of Jay P. Greene, but his commentary on the changing winds in education reform is highly relevant.  Why do I read Greene's writings?  Because it's worth reading the thoughts of those with drastically different viewpoints; because Greene is, like it or not, influential; and because the best way to critique your enemy is to do your best to get into their head and discover the weaknesses in their argument.  From the mind of Greene:

I have no idea why a bunch of ed reformers are so gloomy.  Matt [Ladner] has already observed how Rick Hess and Mike Petrilli can’t seem to enjoy the moment when ed reform ideas go mainstream.  Now Liam Julian is joining the poopy parade, lamenting that the new crop of naive reformers are doomed to fail just as past ones have, and “it never works out.” And continuing the gloomy theme, Rick is worrying that school choice (in the form of vouchers) over-promised and under-delivered, losing the support of people like Sol Stern. 
That may be, but as a graduate student observed to me today, choice (in the form of vouchers) may have lost Sol Stern, but choice (in the form of charters) just gained Oprah, the Today Show, and the Democratic Party platform.    Overall, he thought that was a pretty good trade, especially since he had to look up who Sol Stern was.
Let’s review.  It is now commonly accepted among mainstream elites — from Oprah to Matt Lauer to Arne Duncan — that simply pouring more money into the public school system will not produce the results we want.  It is now commonly accepted that the teacher unions have been a significant barrier to school improvement by protecting ineffective teachers and opposing meaningful reforms.  It is now commonly accepted that parents should have a say in where their children go to school and this choice will push traditional public schools to improve.  It is now commonly accepted that we have to address the incentives in the school system to recruit, retain, and motivate the best educators. 
These reform ideas were barely a twinkle in Ronald Reagan’s eye three decades ago and are now broadly accepted across both parties and across the ideological spectrum.  This is a huge accomplishment and rather than being all bummed out that everyone else now likes the band that I thought was cool before anyone ever heard of it, we should be amazed at how much good music there is out there.

Enjoy the music, Jay.

NB: In light of Greene's victory declaration, it's worth re-reading Jim's editorial from 2009, The Reagan Legacy and the Obama Agenda, or A Race at Risk.

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