Monday, January 21, 2013

That Depends Which Education Reform Movement You're Talking About

Alexander Russo:

Someone else, really, should be the one to write about Anil Dash's thought-provoking blog posts, The Web We Lost, and Rebuilding the Web We Lost.  Ideally, it would be someone who's worked inside the reform movement, and remains sympathetic, but is reflective and independent enough to point out where things seem to have gone wrong and what needs to happen next.

I'm actually well qualified to handle this one, for example, in 2003 I gave a talk at the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference -- Dash was an attendee -- entitled "We're All in this Together, Kid: Social Software in School Reform:"

Successfully implementing progressive school reforms is an infamously difficult task. Traditional American high schools are atomically organized to minimize interdependence between different classes and exchange flexibility for predictability.

Progressively structured schools seek to make student inquiry the center of their work, often through interdisciplinary projects tailored to individual student needs. This is a riskier process, requiring a high level of coordination between teachers, students, administrators, and parents.

Typically, progressive schools have employed loose or open-ended forms of evaluation, such as pass/fail or narrative assessment. Today, however, public schools and their students are being held accountable for achievement of standards, often simply measured through high-stakes testing.

Ten years ago, "school reform" at least equally applied to Deborah Meier and Ted Sizer as it did to, say, Joel Klein.

In the intervening decade, I've become a social software curmudgeon -- you'll pull Blogger from my cold, dead hands -- and yielded the "ed reformer" tag to people and practices I hate.

Basically, in both cases, the money men started to roll in and roll over the geeks and the teachers who were building tools and schools with an eye to something other than the market, or market-based logic. We're only just now hitting the point where it is clear the grifters are rolling into schools like Visigoths, but even when the point hasn't been to make money directly, it has been to apply the methods of business to education.

It has taken a while to sort out, but at this point many of the leading figures in screwing up the internet are also leaders in screwing up education (reform): Gates, Zuckerberg, Jobs (RIP), etc. It isn't hard to tease out the common thread. The earnest geeks who do things, understand how things work, and care about actual people get rolled by the big money guys. That's it.


Mr. Lauer said...

Am glad to say I attended that talk...

Frank Krasicki said...


As usual your observations are spot on.