Reform Without Changing

Alfie Kohn makes it very clear that very few of the loudest voices in the shouting match known as education reform are really talking about changing anything.

For a shrewd policy maker, then, the ideal formula would seem to be to let people enjoy the invigorating experience of demanding reform without having to give up whatever they’re used to. And that’s precisely what both liberals and conservatives manage to do: Advertise as a daring departure from the status quo what is actually just a slightly new twist on it.

On top of that, many of those advocating for the status quo (only more of it), aren’t too fond of children either.

But traditionalists — who, when it comes to children, include a discouraging number of political liberals — have persuaded us to ignore the epidemic of punitive parenting and focus instead on the occasional example of overindulgence — sometimes even to the point of pronouncing an entire generation spoiled. (It’s revealing that similar alarms  have been raised for decades, if not centuries.) To create the impression that kids today are out of control is to justify a call for even tighter restrictions, tougher discipline, more punishment.

As Kohn often points out, nothing in the current mix of so-called reform proposals – merit pay, charter schools, even more testing, blaming teachers – even remotely approaches the kind of change our education system needs.

The status quo is rapidly failing our kids while most of our “leaders” are advocating for even more of it.

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