When Technocrats Attack

You’d think having summer reading programs for students would be an easy enough feat for people with doctorates in education to pull off. You steal one of the many summer reading lists already available all over the globe, run off a few million copies and get it into the hands of students and their parents. (Or, if you are into the whole consensus-building thing, you appoint a commission to meet a few dozen times over 18-months to create a list similar to the ones you can just-as-easily rip-off from other states and districts on the Internet, run off a few million copies, etc.) Then, the kids come back to school in the fall and you make them write an essay or give them a test of some sort. (I remember cramming on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle on the night before school started when I was in high school, cognizant that my first quarter grade would depend upon it.)

But in New York State, the men and women in charge of the state’s schooling bureaucracy recently were forced to issue an 866-word “Guidance on Locally Required Summer Reading Assignments” to remind everyone that since we’re talking about public education there are rules, rules, rules which must be followed! Check it out here.

The rules aren’t particularly shocking (you can’t force kids to buy the books, which means you’ve got to make sure they are free and available, teachers must be available over the summer to help students if they need it, etc.) So why must this stuff be formally codified for the highly-educated men and women who run school systems? For the answer, you have to go here , and here , and here.

So, do we come up with stupid rules for smart people to follow, or smart rules for stupid people to follow? You decide.

— Joe Williams

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