wasting bandwidth since 1999

Far Too Fat And Happy

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.

education, reform, revolution, hungry


  1. Jenny

    Not hungry enough for revolutionary changes. Too true. What do we do to encourage the hunger? One would think our society would be starving for educational improvement. It seems that inertia is a powerful force.

  2. Jim Gates

    Too fat and happy. Amen. I wrote a five part series on that very thing a while back. The trouble is that I think we won’t wake up to see reality until AFTER we’ve lost the race. Below are the links to the series, if you’re interested. Oh, and I realized too late that the quote was actually, “Nothing of importance happened today”, but it’s close enough for government work, eh?


  3. Miguel Guhlin

    Tim, interesting points…talking about change…is that action enough?

    BTW, the link to my blog entry is messed up…thought you might want to fix it so folks can read a fantastical point of view (smile).

    Take care,

  4. Tim

    Talking about change is a start. However, I wish more people farther up the decision making chain were participating in the discussion instead of just spouting the same old calls to further cement the current system in place.

    And the link to Miguel’s call to action is fixed so go read it and leave him a comment.

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