EDDRA correspondents have been writing a lot lately about Jerry’s gate-keeping.* I’d like to move that conversation on a bit. Most everyone agrees that Jerry’s gate-keeping is just fine and in any case entirely up to Jerry. We all know the disasters that could happen otherwise, at worst various kinds of hate speech, but most often a great deal of nonsense, thoughtless stuff in our in-box that we could all do without. Jerry has kept that sort of thing from happening to EDDRA.
However, I would venture the opinion that the EDDRA correspondents by and large, and perhaps Jerry himself, do represent a fairly narrow slice of current thinking about education, in particular in regard to attitudes toward the pubic schools. I would say that EDDRA respondents are anti-reform, believing, I suppose, that the schools are not in great need of reform, or fixing. Am I right about that?
I’ll show you what’s on my mind by asking you to respond (Jerry willing, of course) to five questions. Now this is not a test of the sort that so many of you have been writing about recently. (It’s interesting that in regard to testing you are certainly not of one mind.)
For my questions there are no right answers, and hence no grades.
In each instance I’ll tell you how I’d answer the question. I think now that my answers will probably be different from yours as I’m sure I belong to a different slice of that thinking about the public schools that I refer to above.
Let me say I very much appreciate being an EDDRA correspondent because I encounter from you opinions widely different from my own. And that’s good.
So my five questions:
1) Did the makers of NCLB have the undoing of the public schools in mind when they fashioned the law? (I don’t think they did.)
2) Which group of schools, public charter schools or public exam and magnet schools, do the most harm to the non-selective public schools in the district by removing the particularly talented children, as well as those with motivated parents (the latter being the basis of a common criticism of charter schools), from the general admissions pool?
(Isn’t the answer obvious? It’s the highly selective Exam and magnet schools, yet these schools are never criticized in this regard, usually because they have important friends, both in the School Department and in City Hall.)
3) Does poverty itself do most to explain the achievement gap?
(Here although I agree with David Berliner and Jonathan Kozol of the devastating effect of poverty on the lives of children, I don’t think it’s the principal cause of the gap.)
4) Closely related to the previous question, do you think there is any sum of money sufficient to close the achievement gap? How much? (I don’t think there is.)
5) This last question concerns the recent op-ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal by Charles Murray. My question, is Murray right? (OK, that’s hard to answer in one word. But what he says does make me question, again, whether we’re right to push all kids onto college. Murray says we’re pushing them into failure, failure to do what they’re simply not able to do ….like pass a probability and statistics course, reach master play level in chess, dunk a basketball… whereas they might have known success in something else. I’ve been pushing myself all my life and have never been able to reach master play in chess or dunk a basketball. And as Murray himself says, he couldn’t understand all the steps making up a proof in the American Journal of Mathematics. We have to take into account our limitations, and are we doing that properly with our kids in the public schools?)
Finally, I read on EDDRA’s web site that “EDDRA is dedicated to analyzing reports, dispelling rumors, rebutting lies about public education in the United States. “
What I’ve said above is perhaps not exactly doing that, but high on my on list of priorities regarding public education is the importance of sharing my own ideas on the subject with others and that’s what I’ve tried to do above.
*Jerry Bracey has an EDDRA list-serv of which he is the sole gate-keeper. Everything that reaches the 2-3000 individuals on the list has to make it through his “gate.” that is, gain his acceptance, if not approval. This was sent to the list. Don’t yet know if it made it through the gate.