Stop Saying Markets Will Solve School Problems

Published October 5, 2016

Greg Forster is back with the latest in his series

Yes. This is why so many people are dissatisfied with the public education menu. If you had to come up with something for dinner that pleased 50 million kids and their families, you’d probably go with something easy and bland. Like pizza. Forster writes of the consequences of avoiding key questions like this for schooling:

The logic of technocracy is simple: Let’s forget about the things that we strongly disagree about, and focus on the things that everyone ought to be able to reach agreement about pretty easily. As a result, technocracy effectively narrows down the agenda for the head to reading and math scores, keeps the agenda for the hands hopelessly vague (‘critical thinking’) and keeps silent about the heart.

Another effect of technocratic rule of schools: hiding the real values and aims of the system. You cannot take values out of any endeavor. But you can try to hide them. People experience this as small yet myriad forms of manipulation and coercion.

All accountability systems impose a vision of the good. That’s what the word ‘accountability’ means. And, as education politics has shown in recent years, technocracy’s vision of the good is in fact a deeply controversial and divisive one.

Whatever its intentions or motives, technocracy in practice imposes a vision of the good for education that includes everything that is widely agreed to be good, and effectively excludes–treats as not essential to good education–everything that is subject to serious disagreement.

This, Forster notes, has the effect of narrowing and “pabluming” the curriculum and subjecting teachers, students, parents, and administrators to myriad numbing and idiotic rules. He provides a lot more to think over, so I’ll leave you with another tantalizing quote:

Choice and decentralization will be absolutely indispensable components of any such system. But we will not get them by talking about markets and competition. We will get them by talking about why a free community, open to pluralism but demanding respect for rights under the rule of law, is the best kind of community for human beings.

SOURCE: EdChoice


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