Monday, January 21, 2008

Those Pernicious Ed Schools

As we honor Dr. King today, a thought-provoking piece by Sol Stern at City Journal, "School Choice Isn't Enough":
One of the Milwaukee voucher program’s founders, African-American educator Howard Fuller, recently told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “I think that any honest assessment would have to say that there hasn’t been the deep, wholesale improvement in MPS [Milwaukee Public Schools] that we would have thought.” And the lead author of one of the Milwaukee voucher studies, Harvard political scientist Paul Peterson, told me: “The research on school choice programs clearly shows that low-income students benefit academically. It’s less clear that the presence of choice in a community motivates public schools to improve.”
Competition is not enough?
That “incentivist” outlook remains dominant within school reform circles. But a challenge from what one could call “instructionists”—those who believe that curriculum change and good teaching are essential to improving schools—is growing, as a unique public debate sponsored by the Koret Task Force on K–12 Education revealed.
Those pernicious ed schools:
Unlike the government-run K–12 schools, the country’s 1,500 ed schools represent an almost perfect system of choice, markets, and competition. Anyone interested in becoming a teacher is completely free to apply to any ed school that he or she wants. The ed schools, in turn, compete for students by offering competitive prices and—theoretically—attractive educational “products” (curricula and courses). Yet the schools are uniformly awful, the products the same dreary progressive claptrap. A few years ago, the National Council on Teacher Quality, a mainstream public education advocacy group, surveyed the nation’s ed schools and found that almost all elementary education classes disdained phonics and scientific reading. If the invisible hand is a surefire way to improve curriculum and instruction, as the incentivists insist, why does almost every teacher-in-training have to read the works of leftists Paolo Freire, Jonathan Kozol, and William Ayers—but usually nothing by, say, Hirsch or Ravitch? For a good explanation, look to the concept of ideological hegemony, usually associated with the sociological Left. Instead of competition and diversity in the education schools, we confront what Hirsch calls the “thoughtworld” of teacher training, which operates like a Soviet-style regime suppressing alternative perspectives. Professors who dare to break with the ideological monopoly—who look to reading science or, say, embrace a core knowledge approach—won’t get tenure, or get hired in the first place.
Fighting the stifling mediocrity of the teachers' unions and their "thoughtworld".

When my kids were in grade school some of us worried parents would pass Hirsh's books around to augment and fill gaps in their grade-level learning. (This in a supposed lighthouse school district for the country. They are still working on it.)

Phonics and math are key to success. What a surprise. To no one but those who would teach us and our children.

Related posts: Illinoisans Want School Choices, Closing the Achievement Gap, The Education Solution

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