Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sound familiar?

Consider this discussion of U.S. public education:
For while schools everywhere reflect to some extent the culture of which they are a part and respond to forces within that culture, the American public schools, because of the nature of their pattern of organization, support, and control, were especially vulnerable and responded quickly to the strongest social forces. . . .The business influence was exerted upon education in several ways: through newspapers, journals, and books; through speeches at educational meetings; and, more directly, through actions of school boards. It was exerted by laymen, by professional journalists, by businessmen or industrialists either individually or in groups. . ., and finally by educators themselves. Whatever its source, the influence was exerted in the form of suggestions or demands that the schools be organized and operated in a ore businesslike way and that more emphasis by placed upon a practical and immediately useful education.
In 2011, does this sound familiar? Maybe even a reference to Waiting for Superman, Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, and Arne Duncan? This is in fact from Callahan (1962, pp. 1, 5-6) who recognized the corrosive impact of efficiency on attitudes toward the teaching profession--attitudes that have resulted in praise for scripted curriculum, attacks on teacher quality, and calls for increasing class sizes:
The tragedy itself was fourfold: that educational questions were subordinated to business considerations; that administrators were produced who were not, in any true sense, educators; that a scientific label was put on some very unscientific and dubious methods and practices; and that an anti-intellectual climate, already prevalent, was strengthened. (p. 246)

The whole development produced men who did not understand education or scholarship. Thus they could and did approach education in a businesslike, mechanical, organizational way. They saw nothing wrong with imposing impossible loads on high school teachers, because they were not students or scholars and did not understand the need for time for study and preparation. (p. 247)
Callahan, R. E. (1962). Education and the cult of efficiency: A study of the social forces that have shaped the administration of the public schools. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

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