Nation at Risk? Again?

It’s interesting when Yong Zhao says that we need not compare the American Education system to the Chinese as they are in fact, trying to emulate us. Should we be concerned about international test scores?  Is it possible that students from overseas will fill that halls of our universities and American students will be relegated to the best online college degree programs? It seems like a lot of people are after the scores from Shanghai came in this past week. But one of my favorite writers (although he tends to rub some people the wrong way) agrees with Zhao.

Alfie Kohn wrote yesterday in the Huffington Post the following:

“In recent years, parents have cried in dismay that their children could not read out loud, could not spell, could not write clearly,” while “employers have said that mechanics could not read simple directions. Many a college has blamed high schools for passing on students … who could not read adequately to study college subjects; high schools have had to give remedial reading instruction to boys and girls who did not learn to read properly in elementary schools…”

On and on goes the devastating indictment of our education system. Or — well, perhaps I shouldn’t say “our” education system, since few of us had much to say about school policy when this article appeared in 1954.

Similar jeremiads were published, of course, in the 1980s (see especially the Reagan Administration’s influential and deeply dishonest “Nation at Risk” report) and in the 1970s, but one could argue that those, like today’s denunciations of falling standards and demands for accountability, reflect the same legacy of multiculturalism, radical education professors, and the post-Woodstock cultural realignment that brought down traditional values inside and outside of schools.

But how does one defend such an argument when it turns out that people were saying exactly the same things about America’s dysfunctional education system before Vietnam, before Civil Rights, before feminism — and displaying that same aggressive nostalgia for an earlier era when, you know, excellence really mattered?

You can read the rest of it here.

I like the Adrienne Rich quote he ends with: “Nostalgia is only amnesia turned around.”

And here’s another article from HuffPo about what’s wrong with schools today. Rather than blame teacher tenure, effective schools need effective leaders. The principals and vice principals play a vital role. Here’s a quote from that article:

“Led by Anthony S. Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the research group concludes the most importing factor is not-tenure vs. no-tenure but leadership. Principals’ ability and capacity to exercise leadership plays a significant role in organizing schools to make progress.”

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