Thursday, November 8, 2012

The National Education Agenda

On Valerie Strauss’ Washington Post Blog, The Answer Sheet,  Arthur H. Camins posts an article worth reading, A Call for President Obama to change course on education. I recommend this article and would like to add my own thoughts about how President Obama should rethink his education agenda.

For sure, improving America’s schools is a top priority. But we should understand the problems, and dispel some mistaken ideas.

Charter Schools. It is important to understand that the push for charter schools stems from a need for security, not just deficits in education.  Parents of children in high crime environments desperately want their children to live. Until we take stock of our failed war on drugs, the mass incarceration of our citizens (particularly people of color), and our overburdened protective systems (criminal justice and child protection), we will be unable to step back and look honestly and productively at the problem of failing schools.

Hierarchy. The natural hierarchies are for teachers to be in charge of their classrooms. Parents should be in charge of their homes. Educational tools such as standardized teaching and teacher evaluations often strip teachers of the authority they need to be effective teachers. Similarly, homework requirements interfere with parents from exercising judgment in their own homes.

Homework. The President is fond of telling parents to help their children with their homework. He sets an inspiring model as a father to his kids. But in supporting homework, he misses a critical piece which is that teachers need to study homework themselves. It is a sad fact that teachers are poorly trained in the theory, research, and practice of giving homework. Without adequate training, parents are left in the uncomfortable (and conflict generating) position of trying to educate teachers on the homework debate.


Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.

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