Why Americans Love to Reform the Public SchoolsReport as inadecuate




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Educational Horizons, v85 n4 p217-231 Sum 2007

In this article, the author answers the question: "Why do Americans love to reform the public schools?" His answer has three parts. First, there is an old and persistent cultural strain in American history, derived from many sources, that seeks human perfection and sees education and schooling as essential to that perfectibility. That goal is high enough to guarantee that most people will not reach it. This means that numerous citizens at any point bemoan the quality of the public schools, which cannot simultaneously achieve laudable but mutually contradictory goals, such as high standards and equality. Second, many Americans believe that their nation uniquely respects the individual and, as a corollary to that belief, has a remarkably fluid social order. Individuals are so highly regarded that they are held personally responsible for their school performance. In the modern world, schools can decisively help determine which individuals will or will not attend college, who will rise into the professions, and who will sink into the service economy. When schools cannot produce success for everyone, citizens often blame teachers, not the more powerful folks in charge of the economy. Third, over the past two centuries America's public schools have assumed so many responsibilities for the care, discipline, and education of the young that they inevitably disappoint many people. The current mania for standardized testing hardly means that schools have shed their various social functions, many unrelated directly to academic achievement. The dream of perfection, the supreme faith in the individual and social mobility through appropriate schooling, and the unexamined assumption that schools should cure whatever ails the nation make educational reform a constant concern in American society. (Contains 27 notes.)

Descriptors: United States History, Standardized Tests, Academic Achievement, Educational Change, Public Schools, Educational Quality, Public Opinion, Academic Standards, Social Influences, School Role, Social Mobility, Educational History, Social Responsibility

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Author: Reese, William J.

Source: https://eric.ed.gov/?q=a&ft=on&ff1=dtySince_1992&pg=5303&id=EJ772515







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