When it comes to school reform, I have a great deal of admiration for Alfie Kohn.
He always presents excellent ideas on teaching and learning and his books The Homework Myth and What Does It Mean to be Well Educated? should be mandatory reads for any educator (or people in general).
In the current issue of The Nation, Kohn discusses the search for the next Secretary of Education, noting the candidates are largely people who don’t really want to change anything fundamental about the way we educate children.
[The word] “reform” actually signals more of the same–or, perhaps, intensification of the status quo with variations like one-size-fits-all national curriculum standards or longer school days (or years). Almost never questioned, meanwhile, are the core elements of traditional schooling, such as lectures, worksheets, quizzes, grades, homework, punitive discipline and competition. That would require real reform, which of course is off the table.
Exactly right! All those reformers want “reform” – they just don’t want change.
Of all the potential secretaries mentioned, Kohn favors Linda-Darling Hammond, who has written a great deal about teacher training and school reform and is currently leading the education working group for the Obama transition team.
From what I’ve read of her work, I have more than a few doubts about Hammond’s willingness to push for major alterations to those “core elements of traditional schooling”.
However, while Kohn himself would be a great choice (or my other favorite, Ken Robinson), I respect his opinion enough to believe she would be the best of the bunch being considered.
Besides, Hammond has actually taught in a K12 classroom and having an educator leading American education policy would be a big change from past administrations.
[Thanks to Scott for pointing out the article.]