My review of the Council on Foreign Relations’ report on US public schools as a “grave threat to national security” is now available online. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jun/07/do-our-public-schools-threaten-national-security/?page=1
I hope it is widely read. I urge everyone who reads it to send it to their friends and colleagues.
The report I reviewed was written by a task force chaired by Joel Klein and Condaleeza Rice. I believe the report is part of a campaign to undermine public education. Public education needs constant improvement, of that there can be no doubt. But it does not need to be disparaged and demeaned as a national security threat.
As I say in the review, the real threat to our future is growing poverty and income inequality and intensifying racial isolation. The report mentions these issues but fails to offer any suggestions to reduce their negative impact on our society.
The report goes out of the way to find every possible way to show public education in a negative light. It does not mention that high school graduation rates and NAEP test scores in reading and math are at historic highs for all groups. This is a hit job on one of our society’s essential democratic institutions.
I wish I had said more in the review about the role of public education in creating citizens for our democracy. In teaching students what they need to know to vote wisely, to serve on a jury, to develop the judgment they need to make good decisions for themselves and their community. Test scores are not the same as education. They are not even the same as achievement. Our metrics are too narrow. They distort the work of the schools. Schools have a far larger role to play than raising test scores. They shape character and they develop citizens.
Those who insist on trashing our public schools and ignoring their importance are really attacking our nation. They forget that we live in the world’s most powerful nation with the largest economy and the most creative thinkers and entrepreneurs (yes, entrepreneurs–I have no objection to money-making as long as entrepreneurs are not invited to make money by running schools). Public schools, which educated 90% of our population, deserve credit for our national success. The constant carping and criticism strike at one of the mechanisms that made this success possible.
It’s time to stand up for public education, to stand up for the dignity of the teaching profession, and to speak out against those who attempt to do them harm.