Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The "Best and the Brightest" Who Have Brought us "School Reform"

In the 1960's journalist David Halberstam wrote a devastating book, entitled "The Best and the Brightest," about the intellectuals and policy makers who developed the strategic rationale for the Vietnam War. Someone could do the same today for the architects of Common Core and Test Based School Reform. So many of the key figures in this initiative- Wendy Kopp of Teach for America, Michelle Rhee, David Coleman of Common Core, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Arne Duncan- attended Ivy League schools. All of them seem to have a couple of things in common- a contempt for the large majority of teachers who attended public universities and received their teacher training in those institutions; and a belief that all policy initiatives to must be heavily "data based."
The goals they set for themselves were ambitious- reducing gaps in educational achievement by race and class and improving the US position in global educational ranking. But they have been no more successful in achieving those goals than their Vietnam Era counterparts were in transforming South Vietnam into a successful independent nation.
And in both cases, the costs to the nation have been immense- a nation divided and a generation of young people traumatized by war in the first instance; a generation of teachers humiliated and a generation of students demoralized in the second.
The lesson: intellectual arrogance and elitism can extract a very high price.