Why left vs. right is wrong
I don't think that we'll ever be able to improve education if the arguments are always framed as right vs. left, conservative vs. liberal, or traditional vs. progressive. An us-against-them worldview stifles productive dialog and, ultimately, stifles any hope for long lasting change. (Reforms by one group will quickly be undone when the other group gets power.)
Reflexive opposition to differing views is counterproductive. Period.
Here’s how I see the current debate in educational policy. The left says that testing should not be everything. A single-minded focus on standardized tests dumbs down the curriculum and pushes subjects like Art, Music, PE, and even History to the margins (as teachers focus on the core competencies in the tests). It also too narrowly defines the needs of students and families. Students need more than test taking abilities and proficiency in reading and arithmetic to succeed in the world.
The right says that for too long schools have failed to provide even minimal academic proficiency to many children and adolescents. If there are no consequences for failure, schools can, and will, continue to fail. The tests aren’t that difficult. We’re just trying to make sure students can read and add and subtract. Shouldn’t every child have those basic competencies?
The sad reality here is that both sides (and I must admit, I’m often guilty, too) are so busy arguing their side that they fail to slow down and acknowledge the truth of the other side. And both sides make valid and important points. I won’t allow this blog to become one-sided. We need more spaces where people can analyze issues not from the right or the left but from the sensible center. And yes, such a center does exist, even if it’s pretty hard to find any sign of it these days.
I’d like to thank Joanne Jacobs for linking to my blog. She obviously didn’t agree with most of what I’ve posted so far and she linked anyway. That’s in the spirit of her tag line – free-thinking and linking – and I do appreciate it (I only wish I’d have thought of that line first!). I hope that as the days and weeks go by more people will comment on the content of this blog and that genuine dialog will help us get closer to solutions that are representative of multiple points of view.
In the midst of this bitter election season, it’s important to remember that even though politics is competitive, setting a national education agenda should be collaborative. Your comments – from whatever point of view – are always welcome.