Beacons of Hope for Education Reformers

Published September 1, 2000

Even if it’s easy to be free, what’s your definition of freedom? and who the [expletive] are you, anyway, who the [expletive] are they, who the [expletive] am I to say, what the [expletive] is really going on? How did the cat get so fat? Why do the families die? Do you care why? Because there hasn’t been a sign of anything getting better in the ghetto, people are fed up, but when they get up you point your little finger, you racist, you bigot, but that’s not your problem now, is it? You love to watch the war from the White House, and I wonder–how can they sleep at night?

This, plus a few lyrics from a punk rock song, was the “essay” a student wrote in answer to a question on human rights violations for this year’s New York State Regents Exam. Even with zero credit for this effort, the student still was awarded a final passing score of 57, according to the July 24 New York Times.

With an almost daily diet of such “dumbing down” stories, it would be easy to become discouraged about efforts to reform public education in the United States. But there is good news of hope and encouragement for improving the education of America’s children.

There is hope because practitioners have demonstrated there is a proven model, or “best practice,” that enables all children to achieve at high levels and to escape the condescending “soft bigotry of low expectations.” This is the basis for Samuel Casey Carter’s book, No Excuses: Lessons from 21 High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools.

And there is encouragement because those who toil for improvement can receive a steady reminder of the high quality they are aiming for by taking out a subscription to The Concord Review, a quarterly journal edited by Will Fitzhugh and dedicated to publishing the best essays on history and literature written by today’s high school students.

George A. Clowes is managing editor of School Reform News.