Aged Wine In New Bottles?

As today’s Washington Post shows, gay marriage is an issue with a stark delineation by age – the younger you are the more likely you are to support making gay marriage legal.  Among those 18-29, 73 percent favor making gay marriage legal, among those over 65 only 23 percent do – and support clearly tracks age.  Other polling data shows the same effect, an unusually strong one on social or political issues.

So here’s a question: How much of what’s being debated in education now is a function of generational change and changing views? Or how much is simply because there is more data available and parents are becoming choosier consumers, which has less to do with age and more to do with the times we live in.  Or is it more deeply ideological than that?  I have a strong hunch, based on both some data and a lot of conversations with parents when I was a state board of education member, but what’s yours?

5 Replies to “Aged Wine In New Bottles?”

  1. I think it’s a combination of all of the above. Assuming parents always viewed education as a priority for their children, now they have both more information (exposing the flaws in the system), and more options (charter schools, magnet schools, online schools). And with more information, they’re more empowered to “vote with their feet.”

    Finally, we’re witnessing a democratization of education, as messy (and sometimes antagonistic) process as it is.

    Interesting question.

  2. Not in today’s Post:

    Protesters rally at D.C. summit featuring Walker, Rhee

    Monday – 5/9/2011, 2:49pm ET
    WASHINGTON – Former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is joining two Republican governors at an event pushing voucher programs and charter schools, and protesters are rallying outside the hotel venue.

    The policy summit put on by the American Federation for Children is promoting school choice, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is the headline speaker Monday night.

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett also is a featured speaker at the summit.

    Outside the Washington Marriott in Northwest, more than 100 protesters from several states — including union leaders and other groups — rallied against what they see as an attack on public schools.

    “The track record of vouchers is a track record that’s not very promising,” says Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers Union. “It does decrease the available funds for traditional public education.”

    Saunders says the protesters will be back Tuesday morning, when Rhee is expected to speak.

    WTOP’s Andrew Mollenbeck contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

    (Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

  3. I would expect to see a significant generational divide in polling (though perhaps not as pronounced as w/ an issue like marriage equality) for the simple reason that the traditional district system was designed to serve a culture and economy that no longer exists in its original form — a world that is most “present” or familiar to people whose children went through public school when that world still existed. I’m thinking of the several major cultural changes that have impacted our sense of what public education is supposed to do, what it is *for*: such as, the rise of women in the workplace and increase in the number of families with two parents working full-time across all economic strata; the collapse of a sector of the economy whose workforce did not need, or needed only, a high school diploma; the related reduction in the size and influence of industrial unions; the also-related increase in the academic and economic competitiveness of several dozen other nations; the rise in community and regional mobility; the related loss in size and importance/stature of community-based organizations and social clubs; the also-related diminishment of multi-generational, one-neighborhood families; technology’s role in collapsing the category of *distance* as it related to some human interactions; — its mind-boggling — isn’t it? — that anyone could expect a system built *before* these changes occurred to function effectively with few substantive adjustments *after* they occurred??? It may be that, psychologically, older generations have, to some degree, the luxury to pretend that some or all these changes have not occurred or aren’t all that meaningful and as such they have an easier time pretending that the old “Central District” still provides the appropriate modes and levels of service to families. It could follow that members of younger generations whose lives were/are less impacted by all the changes noted above might also be less concerned by the intractability of the old district model. But most of the 18-45 crowd are staring the new world, and their meager preparation for it, squarely in the face.

  4. This is a very interesting point. Really got me thinking.

    I’m going to offer another possible reason.

    The school system in America as we know it is relatively new. And as such, it’s still evolving.

    I think were seeing the next evolutionary step.

  5. Hi, Andy,

    I see this as both generational and ideological, but not in the traditional ways of thinking about ideological differences. Broadly speaking, i think the new generation of reformers have an ideology is that is an interesting mix of progressive intentions and conservative assumptions, which explains some of the odd bedfellows and alliances that are cropping up. Unlike some on the left who critique reformers as agents of privatization, I actually think what’s going on is that many reformers are not corporatists, but actually hold some conservative (little “c”) views about human nature, individual responsibility, and agency. It’s a conservative view in that it assumes that individuals’ lot in life is primarily the function of individual character and effort, and that social structures and context play a relatively small role. This is the ideology of “no excuses.” Progressives, on the other hand, assume that structures and context play a much larger role, and while individuals certainly have agency, that agency can be constrained by the opportunity structures available to certain individuals.

    I think this explains why some on the left have banded together with conservatives on certain reform matters. They seem to share the “No excuses,” individual accountability perspective. However, I actually worry that those on the left, if they are not careful, may be enabling certain agendas that they actually should not be for. Beyond the surface agreement on certain matter are potentially larger hidden disagreements about equity, the purpose of public schooling, etc.

    As someone who started and ran a small nonprofit academic enrichment program in the early 90s, I have a lot of respect for the optimistic, can-do spirit of some of the reformers and the leaders of CMOs. I think, though, they are too dismissive of the roles that context and structures play in outcomes, or the role that existing structures play in their success. Successful entrepreneurs often forget the role that luck may have played in their success or the structures in place that support entrepreneurship possible in the US (regulations, funding ecosystem, RD in the universities)…. I think this generation is more entrepreneurial and comfortable with risk taking than perhaps older generations. But I also think that’s because this generation may have a higher sense of agency, born in part out of relative privilege and affluence.

    I’m starting to ramble, so I will stop now.

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