Abusing The Price of Progress And History

Steven Pearlstein has a smart column in the WaPo looking at how the inherent tension between efficiency and equality has been hijacked in our current political debate about fiscal policy.  You could also argue that the opposite of what Pearlstein is talking about – getting the balance wrong the other way – is happening in the debate about education innovation.

Elsewhere at the WaPo Valerie Strauss posts a column ostensibly to show the folly of Common Core’s focus on actual texts and their context.  It was immediately circulated by Common Core critics on the left and right. But, if you know your history (and even if you’re skeptical of formulaic curriculum, which Common Core is not) you’ll see it inadvertently highlights the need for such a focus.

9 Replies to “Abusing The Price of Progress And History”

  1. So although better policies would help some on the quality front, and we do need to be more serious about shutting down under-performing charters, at some level creating some lemons is the price of innovation and progress

    Let’s take a good look at that statement.

    Reformers have a long timeline. They see failure as part of the improvement process.

    Parents have a short timeline. They see failure FOR THEIR CHILD as unacceptable.

    Rotherham, you appear to be representing the quaking blob bureaucracy. This is NOT the kind of customer service parents expect. They have a child RIGHT NOW that needs top quality education RIGHT NOW. They are not interested in the LONG RUN. They are not interested in sacrificing their child to your mission of long term improvement.

    This is not rocket science. Parents are conning this ship. You are the MOW. Get used to it.

    Check out the Japanese philosophy. They GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME.

  2. Innovation DOES NOT involve SOME failure.


    Who made THAT lame excuse?

    I question that claim.

    I think it is bogus. I think it is hedging. I think it is caviling.

    I think it is clever reformulation of the essence of the issue:

    Quality education RIGHT NOW for all CHILDREN.

    IF that is NOT POSSIBLE, the entire dynamics of the debate must change.

    Patience with charters MUST be tempered with the DEMAND FOR IMMEDIATE PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT.

  3. “inadvertently highlights the need for such a focus.”

    Care to explain Andy? I didn’t see this at all. As an educator, I completely agree that texts need to be related to kid’s own experiences.

  4. Hi,

    Sure. I agree great educators do relate education to kids’ experiences – but in an informed way that advances learning. In other words, great educators know the Gettysburg Address wasn’t at a funeral, it was at a dedication – that theme being integral to the point Lincoln was making.

    Thanks for the comment.


  5. Thanks Andy,

    Okay, I knew that the Gettysburg Address was not at a funeral, my assumption was the author was comparing the dedication of a monument to a battfield where a lot of people died to a funeral. I can see that this might have been me reading something into it that wasn’t there. I can definitely see why a battlefield dedication can be related to a funeral though, although I do agree with you that I probably wouldn’t draw that comparison if I was teaching it. As a history teacher, my biggest concern would be that Lincoln’s pro-union, anti-slavery, stance would be too watered down to appease Southern interests in a lesson like that.

  6. It’s a bedrock principle of economics: Incentives matter.

    If a person is rational, then they respond to incentives.

    If a person does NOT respond to incentives, then they are NOT rational.

    Teachers do not respond to incentives, there they cannot be rational.

    This has been the tenor of the debate for Mr. R for a long time. And he asserts there is no war on teachers.

    So, I must question his intellectual capabilities.

    Next, parents are NOT interested in trade-offs. Parents do not think in the long term. They want improvement now.

    The correct question to ask parents for the support of charters would be this:

    “Would you accept the likelihood that YOUR child would attend a failing charter as the price of having other children attend successful charters?”

    So, Mr. R, what do you think would be the answer to that question?

    And now the REAL issue becomes clear. Mr. R and the entire edu-elite reformers are entirely working this issue to THEIR benefit and to THEIR TIMELINES.

    And by their metrics, innovation means the price of SOME children losing out on a good education.

    Mr. R you have made good the enemy of the perfect. SHAME ON YOU.

    This is no column and it certainly is NOT a 1,000 page executive summary and report on the painfully obvious.

  7. Parents:
    How do YOU and and YOUR precious child BENEFIT from state testing.

    My children did not. They both graduated from the Univeristy of California in science and have great jobs.

    There is NO data out there with their names on it being pushed around by any number of anonymous researches.


    Keep your children home. Take a day off from work, and take them out to have breakfast and see a movie.

    When you are old and your children are grown up you will not say how happy TESTING MADE YOU OR YOUR CHILD.


  8. Mr. Jones,

    I genuinely appreciate your enthusiastic commenting. And I wish it were possible to invest in the “caps lock” key – with you around here I would not have to work. But, though your efforts are admirable I feel compelled to point out that I’ve never made the incentive argument you describe above (of course, ascribing some bizarre argument I haven’t made hardly distinguishes you in the comment section of this blog but I still wanted to point it out). In the same vein it will come as news to Macke Raymond that Eric Hanushek is married to Carolyn Hoxby. That’s because Macke is his wife. I could go on (whole forests have been felled on the innovation question, for instance), but I’m sure you get the point.


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