Friday, July 23, 2010

Worthwhile education - Part 2

The program description from the RTTT includes four goals, one of which references competing in a "global economy" (see 4 goals below).  I commend Secretary Duncan and his OESE team for crafting an educational plan that includes an orientation to economy - we all need to eat and we all need energy:

  • "Through Race to the Top, we are asking States to advance reforms around four specific areas: 
    • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy ;[emphasis added]
    • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
    • Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
    • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.
I have to ask if the first goal is worthwhile.  Is this really what we want for our children?

There is nothing in the program description about a "sustainable" economy, which is much more egalitarian.  In fact, I would prefer "...participate in a global democracy" rather than "...complete in the global economy."  After all, the purpose of public education is to cultivate an engaged democracy that can make critical and creative decisions about the economy --- not the other way around.

I bring it up because I think the emphasis on economy (rather than democracy) reflects 1) an interest in privatizing public education, and/or 2) a technocratic mindset where education has a utilitarian, measurable function.  The assumptions of RTTT (and  Nation at Risk before it) have permeated our social discourse to the point where we are deliberating obediency & compliance (re.: accountability) and how and where to build prisons -- rather than liberty, equality and creativity.

As Chris Lehmann says in Practical Theory, we've got to dream about and create what we want for public education.  Worthwhile education is built on those dreams.

What are your dreams?  What has to be in place for the dreams to be realized?

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