Underpromoted Ed Paper Of The Year

CO Gov Ritter heralds reform ideaZzzzzz. Laudable goals (double college rate, halve high school dropout rate), lame tactics that can’t possibly achieve those goals. Status quo plus a couple guidance counselors, pinch of pre-K, and full day K. Sure, um, raising a kid’s hours in schools from 12,500 lifetime to 13,000….that 4% increase will lead to 100% improvement in outcomes.

Govs with more urgency/backbone might check out a May 2007 (pdf) Brookings paper by Hugh Price, former Urban League president. He’s speaking at Princeton on Monday and has ideas about your National Guard units and K-12…

The Price paper gotten zero attention in the education press and blogosphere, but poses a really important question….”Demilitarizing What the Pentagon Knows About Developing Young People: A New Paradigm for Educating Students Who Are Struggling in School and in Life.”

“Why focus on the military? The United States military enjoys a well-deserved reputation for its ability to reach, teach, and develop young people who are rudderless, and for setting the pace among American institutions in advancing minorities.”

In fact, is there any other non-religious organization that transforms people on such a large scale? Okay, one other.

Price is understated and the paper’s scope is modest. Still, it seems like he’s trying to raise the question and get other thinkers engaged, begin a conversation. I, for example, have different views on what applicable lessons are (read Making The (Marine) Corps and think about how Ed Schools might be different).

But I think Price is really onto something: there should be 100 thinkers working on this one question. We love to compare K-12 to medicine (flattering to our profession), and we fear comparisons to military (easy to be mocked in “How Dare You” mode by loud peacenik types).

The Achievement Gap business is really about student transformation as much as “teaching and learning,” yet we generally refuse to closely examine the people who’ve achieved transformation results in other sectors.

-Guestblogger Mike Goldstein

3 Replies to “Underpromoted Ed Paper Of The Year”

  1. There are multiple examples of immersive educational environments, and while the military is one of them, it is neither like public K-12 schools nor exactly as problem-free as Price indicates.

    First, there’s the issue of selectivity: until relatively recently, the military had a longstanding policy not only of rejecting dropouts but also rejecting those with only GEDs, because their experience was that GED recipients were more likely to have general or dishonorable discharges. (The irony here is that the military underwrote the development of the GED in the first place…)

    So if one were to choose an appropriate environment for an immersive experience, teacher education would be better than K-12, because of selectivity alone. Then again, a more intense experience for teacher education been proposed multiple times, and because of the underfunding of most schools of education and the undergraduate nature of much teacher education, it remains largely an idea on the shelf.

    The second caveat is that military training involves a good bit of older-adolescent handholding/socializing, which is perfectly fine but should not be understated. One friend of mine’s job as a junior officer in Georgia many years ago included some interesting responsibilities, such as retrieving soldiers from the local jail on the occasional minor offense (and then assigning then disciplinary tasks on base, I gather). I assume most of those young men eventually turned into fine adults, but Price glosses over such inevitable problems

  2. I was with you until you implied that somehow “teaching and learning” wasn’t the focus of school. The reason we use medical comparisons is that the medical profession actually has procedures in place that can be used to educators to teach medicine, and can be learned by students who want to practice medicine. We could just as easily compare to architecture, engineering, clinicial psychology.

    Another quibble: how do you “transform” an eight year old? Most students aren’t formed at all. The problem in most schools is in the work of formation, rather than transformation.

  3. Both Sherman and Anonymous are right, but there is a great deal of value in Price’s logic. We have to appeal to kids’ moral consciousness and sense of duty. We need to find a way to replace the old initiation processes. I got intitiated through rough-necking in the oil fileds, hitchhiking, and backpacking. So I’d prefer a CCC type environment.

    But we have to learn from institutions that have more of a “reality check” than the public education bureaucracy.

    In the wake of NCLB, we have often gambled everything on curriculum-driven approaches that focus on a small portion of the brain.

    In education, though, the whole human being is the smallest unit we should address and usually we need to focus on people within social ecosystems. And kids need to revere traditions that transcend their self-interest. Better yet, we need to embrace even larger ecosystems and the wonder instilled by the whole of Nature. Teens need a spiritual challenge.

    Even so, I try to discourage my students from joining a branch where they might get killed in Iraq.

    John Thompson

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