Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Green Lantern Theory of School Reform

John Merrow:

If you had the power to make one change in public education right now, what would it be? I’m not talking about some sort of magic wand fantasy, so suggestions like “End Poverty” are not appropriate. What I am looking for are changes that could be made.


Dave Levin (of KIPP) had the simplest — and perhaps the most profound — suggestion. “Change the sign,” he said. He reminded us that virtually every school has signs trumpeting a familiar slogan, “All Children Can Learn.” That should come down, Dave said, and be replaced by signs reading “All Will Learn.” Not ‘can’ but ‘will,’ reflecting a new determination and responsibility. And ‘all’ means ‘all,’ he said, including the adults! Changing the sign was, for Dave, an important first step toward changing the way adults in schools approach their jobs.

We certainly could "end poverty," at least to the extent that European social democracies have, and that would be virtually guaranteed to increase aggregate academic achievement over time, barring some other simultaneous screw up. And while we may not have the political will for the task, actually executing it would not be that hard. Increase the scale of various extant social programs.

On the other hand, Levin's plan is pure fantasy. Levin is literally calling for a triumph of the will in American education. Believe and it will happen!

How did we get to the point where such things are taken seriously?


Anonymous said...

I wonder what counts in Merrow's "changes that could be made." Apparently, not much. Therein lies the problem. There is no will. The system is what it will be and we entertain no real alternatives -- in education and otherwise. Is this freedom?

Will Richardson said...