I thought about framing the discussion question for Chapter 6 like this: NCLB calls for schools to be punished for lack of student performance. America currently houses more prisoners in its jails than any other country on Earth. Keeping this in mind how should American's respond to the recent failures of Congress to balance the budget? I decided against it.
I submit this instead: Despite the fact that the proficiency levels set by NCLB are widely considered to be unreachable, schools that have not attained them have been punished. Throughout this time no evidence or data was generated showing that NCLB reforms were improving schools. Why were no changes made to this legislation? Why is this issue only now gaining attention from the wider public?
Why have no changes been made, indeed. To me the answer is clear. Politicians like simple numbers published in black and white, and the idea of accountability (read punishment) for those unable to attain them. Couple this with the fact that schools have clearly failed to teach our leaders (and most of the rest of us) how to spot fallacious reasoning, and to project relatively simple calculations over time, and we find ourselves in our current dilemma. I wish I thought, like you, that the issue is in the process of attaining wide public attention; but I don't see evidence for that. In fact, the evidence seems to be in the other direction. School budgets are being cut, and some voices are raised in protest; but voters keep re-electing the cutters, and tax measures are for the most part voted down.
I definitely don't think that gaining more attention will fix the problem, but I do think that the public attacks on teachers, criticism of schools, and behind the scenes economics of the education represent a larger problem. I think that the media sees the number of schools not meeting these arbitrary standards and sees a story that has legs because parents fear for their kids. I think that the emphasis on profit in school will eventually hurt many people. Lets look at the past. When faced with the choice between serving students or turning a profit, what will win? If the industrial revolution is any example, we have problems. There are limits to the beneficence of capitalism. In light of the recent court cases that deem corporations as individuals, I do not see our society acting to limit these interests. I don't forsee a popular uprising looking to change how schools are judged. With the image of educators in the eyes of the public on the decline I do not think that educators alone can solve this. I believe that public schools are the proverbial filling that unites the socioeconomic oreo cookie sandwich that is American society. Schools are sinew. Sorting them, dividing them as a wholly privatized system would do would be tragic. It fails to defend the individual rights of the poor and powerless.
I have to disagree that schools are to blame for failing to teach us how to spot falacious reasoning. I think we accept fallacious reasoning because it is easier. I may know how to run but that doesn't mean I'm a marathoner. Once we know how to do something we need to choose to do so. I think that both stability and distraction keep us from being concerned with events outside of our immediate focus. (Huxley would be proud of that last line.)
Profits from education should be reaped in the future as students propared for the world they will live in succesfully maneuver through life, not immediately, by companies that have found a way to eak out a profit at our childrens expense.
I certainly agree with your thinking about the attempts to use business models in education. It is fundamentally flawed, and will certainly fail, as we're now seeing in all the places where it has been tried. Unfortunately, its proponents don't seem to see the same outcomes that you and I do.
As for teaching the population to identify fallacious reasoning and argument, I agree and disagree. It most certainly is easier to accept fallacies than to think them through and thereby identify them for what they are, but to me that means we've failed to actually teach. We may present information to students, but if they are unable or unwilling to use it, then we haven't taught them. I used to tell my students that if I saw them outside of school behaving in ways that contradicted the skills I was having them work on in class, I would grade them on those observations, just as I did on what I saw them do in class and what I saw in the work they turned in to me. That almost always drew howls of protest that I was being unfair, as they felt that only what happened in class should count. My response was that I was not teaching them just so they would behave in class as I wanted, that I was interested in how they would use the skills I was having them work on in their lives as a whole, and in their futures. That was always difficult for most of them to grasp. In part I know because the system in which we all work emphasizes the here and now to the exclusion of all else, and for the most part ignores life as a whole outside of the classroom.
Shawn you ask the million dollar question. Certainly school legislation is gaining a lot of attention on both the national and state levels. I am not even sure that the folks who voted in NCLB truly understood it hence why try to change for something even more complicated. I live in thunderdome...the land of failed education reforms. What is a good idea today will be gone tomorrow. I do however think that there needs to be some level of accountability. I am sure that many with argue with me on this point but the trouble is that it is difficult to apply scientific principles to education. In theory they are nice but in practice they don't always work.
On the topic of data we all have seen how the data can be skewed. For example, at the high school in my town no child can score lower than a 50% on his or her report card in a core class a detail that is often left out when looking at the "improved data." I am not sure how this will ever prepare any kid for a real world experience.
In this election year it will be interesting to see what changes with be made in education. I am hopeful however I worry even more that we are (pardon my French) testing the hell out of kids.