Doug Henwood has a great interview with Diane Ravitch about her new book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.” (I am once again catching up on podcasts.) Ravitch basically repeats what’s more or less common sense among people who study education: it’s not bad teachers, or the unions, or not teaching the basics that’s so damaging to public education. It’s the inequity, stupid.
A school’s potential impact on a child’s learning is dependent on certain preconditions. If you are poor, not well fed, don’t have good medical care, etc. you won’t do very well. Duh. Of course, what’s so horrific is that instead of dealing with the inequity that’s at the root of the problems in the public schools, we push for more testing, claim that certain schools are failing and privatize them, negotiate contracts that would make it easier to fire teachers, etc.
Anything and everything but injustice. Injustice is hard. Sadly, nothing’s changed with the Obama administration. I was also reading about the Khan Academy, which creates free tutoring videos for K-12 students, in all sorts of subject. They’ll help certain students and I hope teachers use them. It’s got me thinking about technology, class, and autodidacts. I admire the effort, of course, but it’s a classic American response to a social problem.
Short of the autodidact contingent, whose numbers might be growing, this sort of liberalism is much less than it seems. In the end, it reminds me that most public school teachers routinely buy their own basic supplies; that music and arts programs are decimated while football thrives; that school’s serve junk food for lunch every day, despite the epidemic of obesity. Good educational tools are always welcome, but you can’t fight these sorts of battles one student at a time.