Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Future in the Past

I've just finished Steven Brill's Class Warfare, which I read like a Daily Racing Form for the American education reform movement (which I've been a past member of, but now identify more with Governor Brown's formulation, "a reformed reformer"). Though long, the book's brisk style keeps the pages turning; for specialists it lacks depth, but is a good primer for those new to the controversies.

Now out of all that cast of characters, a number of whom I know personally and in a few cases pretty well, whom do I most identify with, and with whom would I most like to team up? Al Shanker! Al Shanker was a man passionately devoted to raising the status of teaching to that of a true profession; I admire that, and fomented the revolt at Locke in part to also raise the status of teachers (which hopes were dashed by our intended partnership being transformed into a takeover by Green Dot). Shanker was one of the earliest advocates of charter schools, which he envisioned as (unionized) laboratories for pedagogical experimentation and innovation, particularly for those struggling in our regular public schools; my vision also was and is for teacher-led and teacher-empowering chartered schools, rather than those with business practices and business mentalities foisted upon them by people who don't understand teachers or teaching. Shanker also supported school choice for families stuck in disadvantaged neighbourhoods by supporting allowing them to cross district lines, while I have already written a previous post identifying school district boundaries as a source of much of the inequality and injustice in American society. Shanker was open to more meaningful teacher appraisals and performance pay, both of which I support. I only wish we could resurrect him from the dead. Reaching back into Shanker's past may well provide a good way forward as we move into the future.     

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