The Flat World and Education – Recommended Reading

I am currently reading The Flat World and Educatioon by Linda Darling-Hammond. Actually, I have been currently reading it for some time. I began it in October on the train to and from Minnesota.  I have laid it aside from time to time to allow other books and periodicals to “play through.” Therefore, I am still currently reading it.

I will concede at the outset that it is not a quick or light book to read. Her arguments and the material that she presents to support them are plentiful, voluminous, and dense. You may want to “warm up” on another excellent book: The Death and Life of the Great American School. It is shorter and moves faster. Both are rather critical of “reform” as advocated by the “Reformists,” The Politicians, Pundits, Polemicists, and all too many Professors Who, of All People Should Know Better, and members of The Billionaire Boys’ Club (Ravitch’s term). Both approach the problem from different directions.

Darling-Hammond arguments follow two main lines. She laments great disparities in American schools and recognizes it as being a very real problem. She attributes this largely to the consequences of disparities in funding, not just rich-district, poor-district, but deliberate disparities within the same district. This is ground plowed by Jonathan Kozol in Savage Inequalities (1991), but, further laments Darling-Hammond, after a brief period of improvement in the 1990s, things are getting worse again and any gains are being lost.

But the main thing that distinguishes this book is that Darling-Hammond looks at countries such as Finland, Korea, and Singapore that are vaunted by the Reformists as out-performing American schools.  She looks closely at what, specifically, schools in these countries do that accounts for much of their success. And it is anything but what the Reformists would have you believe. She also looks at what some schools in the United States are doing that seems to be making a difference.

A brief review like this one is necessarily very superficial. I think that in future posts,I would like to share ideas as I come to them – sort of like reading notes.

This entry was posted in Education Reform. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Flat World and Education – Recommended Reading

  1. Debashis says:

    Yes, Melinda Gates’ remarks are lilkey based on the research of Eric Hanushek of Stanford. Do we really need research to tell us that the classroom teacher is important?Perhaps I’m being naive but I do believe Bill and Melinda Gates are truly interested in teacher quality. So am I and so is Diane Ravitch and almost everyone else.From what I’ve read I believe the Gates couple are just beginning to realize that all their donated money is (once again) having unintended consequences. Are their practices luring more talented people to the profession or are many young people being scared away? Are dedicated urban teachers electing to stay in low-performing schools or are they trying desperately to get transfers to better (i.e. more affluent) schools where test scores are almost certain to improve? Are young women still preparing for K-12 jobs or are they electing to follow men into many professions that promise higher pay, autonomy and prestige? Personally I don’t know a single young man or woman who is planning on a career in elementary or secondary education. Yes, there are many recent college graduates who are searching for teaching jobs but how many are entering college programs at this time?Is someone from the Gates Foundation reading this blog? If so, why not try tried and true methods for attracting and retaining talented people to the field of public school teaching. Here’s what I’d like to see:Fellowships at excellent colleges and universities for talented individuals to prepare to become teachers;Schools where highly qualified teachers can be fully professional. At these schools these teachers would make most decisions regarding budget, governance, curriculum, and instruction. They would elect a head teacher who would serve at the pleasure of the faculty and vote on promotion for colleagues. Like their college teacher counterparts, these teachers would have a career ladder: assistant teacher, associate teacher, teacher, mentor etc. They would not have to leave the classroom in order to advance. Their unions would morph into the associations they were originally meant to be. With teachers at the helm, we’ll see an end to the ineffective teacher. And, yes, salaries, working conditions and benefits will need to be improved. Perhaps the Gates people can help talented teachers open their own schools where they would be free to make almost all decisions.We know how to encourage talented people to enter other occupations. Let’s try these same strategies to improve the teaching profession. Humiliating, shaming and depriving teachers of hard-won benefits isn’t going to improve the profession and we don’t need a Stanford or Harvard researcher to tell us that. The contempt that so many of our citizens feel for schoolteachers ( mainly women) is at the root of our problems. If we want to see improvement, we have to find a way to change this unfortunate cultural characteristic of the American people. Hopefully Bill and Melinda Gates will use their money to help. They will realize the success they want when they help to elevate the profession and not demean it, as is happening at this time.

Comments are closed.