A regular reader who signs his (or her) posts “democracy” has a two-part response to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which dumbly continues to repeat the discredited claim about the crisis in American education, a crisis they have helped to perpetrate by crying wolf for thirty years.

Here is Part 1:



Education in a democratic republic has a special place and purpose. At least it’s supposed to, and public education’s purpose is most certainly NOT to make a society “more competitive.” Aristotle argued for a system of public education in ancient Athens, noting that “each government has a peculiar character…the character of democracy creates democracy, and the character of oligarch creates oligarchy, and always the better the character, the better the government.”

Democratic governance is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, for the people.” By contrast, oligarchy is government by a relatively small – usually wealthy – group that “exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.” Considering who funds the Common Core, and who supports it (think the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce), and the process by which it was brought to fruition, is there really any question as to the purpose behind it?

A former assistant secretary of education in the Bush administration said that NCLB was really a “Trojan horse…a way to expose the failure of public education…to blow it up a bit.” Is the Common Core really so different?

There are those who don’t believe in the fundamental purpose of public education. They are not interested in the developing the “democratic citizen,” one who understands and is committed to the core values and principles of democratic governance; one who is imbued with the “character of democracy.” There are certain people and groups and special interests who’ve felt threatened by education for “the masses,” especially Mann’s view of public education as “the balance-wheel of the social machinery” in a democratic society. And this begs the question, is the Business Roundtable committed to the core values and principles of democracy? The Chamber of Commerce? Bill Gates? Jeb Bush? And what about Arne Duncan?

All of these people and groups make two false claims about public education in the United States. First, they say that public schools are in “crisis.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I’ve noted repeatedly, the data (which these folks claim to care about) have shown and continue to show that there is no general “crisis” in public education in the United States.

The Sandia Report (Journal of Educational Research, May/June, 1993), published in the wake of A Nation at Risk, concluded that:

* “..on nearly every measure we found steady or slightly improving trends.”

* “youth today [the 1980s] are choosing natural science and engineering degrees at a higher rate than their peers of the 1960s.”

* “business leaders surveyed are generally satisfied with the skill levels of their employees, and the problems that do exist do not appear to point to the k-12 education system as a root cause.”

* “The student performance data clearly indicate that today’s youth are achieving levels of education at least as high as any previous generation.”