denning on ed reform

Even modern management gurus can see through the mass coerced factory model we use for schools. There has been a big stir and response to Denning. Joe Bower links to additional material.

The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education - Forbes:
"To my mind, the biggest problem is a preoccupation with, and the application of, the factory model of management to education, where everything is arranged for the scalability and efficiency of “the system”, to which the students, the teachers, the parents and the administrators have to adjust. “The system” grinds forward, at ever increasing cost and declining efficiency, dispiriting students, teachers and parents alike."
The article goes on:
But given that the education system is seen to be in trouble, there is a tendency to think we need “better management” or “stronger management” or “tougher management”, where “management” is assumed to be the factory model of management. It is assumed to mean more top-down management and tighter controls, and more carrots and sticks. It is assumed to mean hammering the teachers who don’t perform and ruthlessly weeding out “the dead wood”. The thinking is embedded in Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind. 
These methods are known to be failing in the private sector, because they dispirit the employees and limit their ability to contribute their imagination and creativity; they frustrate customers, and they are killing the very organizations that rely on them. So why should we expect anything different in the education sector?
What About Parents? 
In part 2 of the article, Denning discusses these ideas:
3. “Parents should be held responsible for kids learning.” Agreed, but that is a whole societal change, including remedying poverty and income inequality, that goes way beyond reforming the education system.
It is a key point in the whole debate, of course, and the desire to have parents deeply involved runs into our compulsory attendance laws and their impact on families. While understandable, perhaps, in the context of changing an agricultural orientation of families at the beginning of mass schooling, these laws have effectively ensured that parents and kids are completely powerless to affect change of any kind.

And while everyone wants parents to take responsibility for their child's education, it is the family itself that is most powerless and most victimized by the current system. Until homeschooling, many parents had almost no choice whatsoever in many situations.

It is the classic double-bind: educators and professionals setup the entire process, curriculum, methods, work: everything and then the parent is expected to enforce their agenda and take responsibility when something goes wrong. But remember that a parent canot sue the school if their child doesn't pass the exit exam. Look at the recent theft of education so-called crimes to see the ugly face of class warfare.

The schools, like our financial sector, bear no responsibility and yet they control the entire process and like to lecture families on their responsibilities. We seem to have class blinders on in the US and are unwilling to examine how and why money transfers up the way it does.

And it is socially clueless to not grasp how our institutions manipulate families in ways we can see are harmful. Clearly, greater democracy in every institution would strengthen us all.

Poverty and the Schools
More from denning:
What about poverty? 
Diane Ravitch has argued powerfully that the principal problem of many struggling schools is poverty. Anthony Cody asked: How would your approach change the way students there experience education? My reply: 
Income inequality is obviously a major determinant of educational performance. I will not pretend that the changes in educational approach that I suggest can overcome the handicap of poverty. 
Nevertheless an education system that focuses on learning, and encourages students to learn by exploring issues that are of interest to them, has greater chances of overcoming some of the constraints of poverty a top-down system that proceeds from thee approach of “You study what we tell you to study, when we tell you, and how we tell you, and at a pace that we determine”
If you believe, as I do with Gatto, that genius is common, and that we actually need all the gifts and talents of all human beings to mold a sustainable society, you will grasp that the current structure needs changed because it manufactures poverty by reinforcing the class structure.

Poverty is not what's wrong with the schools: poverty is what's wrong with test scores. The US can and should work to eliminate poverty which is an achievable goal. It would fix a lot of the unsustainable aspects of our economic system.

Poor parents would benefit the most from a deep revision of the current factory model and the imposition of punitive measures against parents.  Wealthy parents have lots of choices and input.  Changing our schools' mission to one of providing families services would be the biggest help to poor parents as they would gain some power over their families conditions.

John Holt's two essays "Schooling and Poverty" and "Deschooling and the Poor" (see quote below) in Freedom and Beyond that examined schooling and poverty.
"Schools, far from being the means by which poor and minority group kids may escape discrimination, are instead a very powerful instrument of discrimination. A society that discriminates against such people can do more easily, more invisibly*, and with greater impunity in schools than in almost any other place."
*Re Holt's last statement, see this post about how funding is skewed.

I won't even address the growing body of evidence that excessive schooling and bureaucratization of learning has created many issues for our society.  The fact that the entire economics profession missed the biggest financial crisis in the past 100 years is one example.  The fact that my highly-schooled doctor cannot deliver a baby without an alarming rate of surgery is another. We are now seeing the side effects of mass schooling and they are indeed worrisome. But that's another post.

background posts
Post a Comment