Changing times in education reform

by Andrew Gelman on December 12, 2012 · 2 comments

in Education

In reading this article by David Denby on long-time education reformer Diane Ravitch, I was struck by how much things have changed. Around 1980, Ravitch was considered a conservative and was supporting the conservative cause of a national school curriculum. From the perspective of 2012, a national school curriculum doesn’t sound very conservative at all! France has a national school curriculum. On the right wing of the American conservative movement you have home-schoolers, charter-schoolers, and people who oppose public education entirely; on the moderate side of the conservative spectrum are the supporters of federalism and states’ rights. In an era in which it’s a rare politician who even admits to believing in evolution, it’s hard to picture a national school curriculum as a cause that conservatives would support.

{ 2 comments }

Andrew Rudalevige December 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Indeed so. I’m reminded of a comment Checker Finn once made about the difficulties of establishing national tests in American education: “Republicans don’t like ‘national,’ Democrats don’t like ‘test.’”…

LRC December 12, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Isn’t the main shift that of the GOP’s political strategy on education policy? This is captured well by Jeff Henig’s chapter in the Glenn and Teles volume, Conservatism and American Political Development. The story Henig tells is one of learning: conservatives turn towards nationalized standards and testing as a way of peeling off support for public schools after failing to shore up support for more obvious attempts at policy retrenchment. This is a good example of how a policy idea (testing) can gain a partisan charge, mutating it beyond the recognition of its creators.

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