I am very pleased to let you know about the publication of a newly revised edition of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.
Perhaps you read it when it was first released in 2010. It was big news at the time, because I broke ranks with the conservative think tanks and policymakers who had once been my allies. I spoke out against the misuse of testing and the dangers of privatization. This was unexpected from someone who had been an Assistant Secretary of Education in the administration of President George H. W. Bush, who served as part of three conservative think tanks, and who had written many articles about the “crisis” in American education.
I thought I had made a clean break with the Bush-Obama agenda. But in time I realized that I had not completely escaped the old, failed way of thinking (like a state, tinkering with people’s lives from afar). The book continued my longstanding support for a national curriculum and predicted that it would be smooth sailing now that the culture wars were over. I was wrong again!
In this new revision of the book, I have removed any endorsement for a national curriculum or national standards or national tests, and I explain why. The controversy over the Common Core standards taught me that the U.S. will never have a national curriculum, and furthermore, should never have one.
I also explain why a national curriculum and national examinations will not reduce the achievement gap among different racial and ethnic groups and will not reduce poverty. The advocacy for them–from the same people who support privatization–continues to be an excuse for avoiding the issue of poverty. And I rewrote the chapter on “A Nation at Risk,” showing how it dodged the most important issues in our society, which were economic and social, not educational.
Yes, there is a “crisis” in education, but it is not a crisis of test scores or failing schools. The crisis is caused by policymakers, federal officials, foundations, and business leaders who are imposing failed ideas on the schools. These impositions are hurting students, teachers, principals, communities, and public education itself. They have failed and failed, again and again, but those who support the Bush-Obama agenda of competition, choice, testing, and accountability refuse to re-examine their assumptions. Their inability to recognize their own failure has created disruption (which they admire), turmoil, and massive demoralization among educators.
I hope you will consider reading the book. I think that D&L continues to speak with passion to the terrible and real crisis in American education, a crisis caused by non-educators who want to turn our schools into job-training units, who want to emphasize standardized testing to the detriment of students, educators, and public schools, and who foolishly think that privatization will improve education.