One phrase from an otherwise unremarkable podcast has been swirling around in my weird little mind for the last couple of weeks.
…revolutions only happen when you’re really hungry.
The line came from the discussion of a keynote session at a conference at which the speaker was advocating major changes in American culture.
And it started me thinking about reform efforts in one not so small corner of our society, education. Since I started teaching too many years ago, there’s been plenty of talk about reforming teaching and learning.
Over that time, calls to “fix” American education have been sparked by events like Sputnik (before my time), high profile reports such as A Nation at Risk, and politically motivated laws like No Child Left Behind.
But has anything actually changed in that fifty year span?
Not really. Almost all the educational reform proposals implemented in that time frame have fallen very much short of revolutionary status. In fact, they were largely the opposite.
For example, look at just the current “big ideas” for school reform being pushed: charter schools, vouchers, KIPP, AP for everyone, small schools, core knowledge, testing students continually.
Right up to and including NCLB, all of those alterations to public education are designed to preserve the assembly line, compartmentalized, teacher-directed process of schooling that goes back almost a hundred years.
So, do school reform efforts rise to the level of a revolution? Not even close.
Despite the many potentially radical proposals being discussed in the web-based echo chamber that is the edublogosphere, there really isn’t much demand from the general public or our political leaders to shake things up.
Unfortunately, American society is not nearly hungry enough for revolutionary changes in our educational structure.