George Will gets very excited about this Mitch Daniels speech at Purdue’s commencement. Daniels is a serious guy and committed public servant. And his talk pushed a few of my buttons, too. It includes a terrific Eddie Murray story with a good moral and the bizarre set up where casinos are allowed to ban the one kind of customer who, through sharp wit and work, isn’t doomed to lose money playing against the house.
But, Daniels’ basic point is that outside of the extremes it’s the luck you make not the luck of the world that determines your fate. Sure, at one level this is certainly true. It does seem we have swung the pendulum too far toward telling some young people their own agency matters little (ironically, we seem tell that most to young people at our nation’s most elite colleges but that’s another story) and giving them a pseudo-Marxist view of the world with little counterbalance or exposure to other ideas. However, and this is key, Daniels’ argument confuses what’s possible with what’s probable because it assumes a universality at odds with the evidence. This greatly matters to me because of why I work in education in the first place.
America is a county where it’s possible that anyone can become anything. Just ask our new favorite founding father – Alexander Hamilton – or the many compelling contemporary stories we know close up and from a distance. Yet, and this is key, while these stories are certainly possible when you look at the aggregate data they are not systematically probable right now (pdf). Economic mobility is constrained and economic birth status exerts disturbing leverage on life outcomes. Schools are only one piece of that but a real piece. College graduation (pdf), in particular, can make a real dent in social mobility. But there are powerful countervailing forces. Technology, in particular, is going to make things even more challenging as automation displaces an increasing number of jobs on top of what’s already happening as a result of globalization.
In other words, it’s hard to look at the data and then say, as Daniels did,
I’m not saying that luck never plays a part; of course it can. But, unless it’s the tragic kind of luck, it almost never decides a life’s outcome. Like the referees’ calls in a basketball game, the good and bad breaks are likely to even out over the course of a season. What counts in the long run is the quality of your play.
because while that’s arguably quite true of a graduating class of seniors at a great university like Purdue it’s not in aggregate true for Americans overall right now. Unless 43 percent of Americans being born in the lowest quintile of income and staying there while 40 percent of those born at the top stay there is just the ‘good and bad breaks averaging out for people.’
What’s happening elsewhere?
National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reiterates support for virtual schools but wants action on quality (pdf).
Here’s a basic contour of the education landscape today that’s abused by both sides in the Common Core debate. Common Core standards have been implemented widely, they haven’t been implemented well.
Emmeline Zhao takes a look at the problems with PLUS loans. This online ed idea for prisoners is a good idea but unless credits can be earned effectively, have integrity, and be portable this will fall short. Hailly Korman with more on that. Andrew Kelly calls for some bipartisanship on Pell. And we’re fighting over direct loans again…(pdf). Also in higher ed news, you can’t bring your pistol to your tenure or discipline hearing at the University of Tennessee.
Teachers unions are broadening their coalitions.
Rick Hess says today’s ed reform community is similar to ed schools in the 1990s. He cites five similarities:
- Orthodoxy reigns without being formally demanded or commanded
- Open disagreement about values is deemed unpleasant and unnecessary
- Inconvenient critiques are seen as a failure to “get it”
- Faddism reigns
- Race, poverty, and privilege are the “right” way to think about school improvement
Eduflack agrees. Not sure I agree with #2 as being a dominant theme but I’m biased by who I spend time with, I lead a team deliberately built to have a wide variety of viewpoints represented. And #3 probably cuts all ways on all sides. #5 has some nuance, the emerging issue seems to be more whether there is a correct way to think about race, poverty, and privilege more generally. It’s mostly a debate about larger societal issues influencing the debate over schools rather than the other way around. And so far the sector is doing a poor job with multiple perspectives there. What’s also somewhat amusing here is that some of the ed schools – some, let’s not overdo it – have been making real strides to improve, become more ideologically diverse, and upped their game.
This is an important article. McDonalds is the punchline to a joke for many, it’s a source of wifi and cheap protein for many, too.
In Washington, D.C. former Mayor Vincent Gray is returning to the city council. He won a primary Tuesday. Gray, who went from being education reform villain to something of an education reform favorite lost his mayoral reelection bid under a cloud of scandal but he was never charged despite strong signals from prosecutors he would be. He’s made no secret that he has eyes on his old office.
Marilyn Rhames on inclusion and a terribly sad story. Trifecta of complexity and contention: Special education, charter schools, and discipline.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a manifesto in this sector. Here’s one from Jeanne Allen.
Michigan will teach about the Armenian genocide. Very political issue with Turkey. Issues like this, flawed curriculum about Hindus and other similar issues point to some problems with standards and curriculum.
Today in testing: Landscape maps on who is doing what on college and career standards. Tom Loveless on NAEP proficiency and what it means. Checker Finn says not so fast Tom! Related, the MCAS in well-regarded Massachusetts is pretty good, so why change it?
Homeless students in public schools: Hidden In Plain Sight.
What do parents want when choosing schools, what does it mean for policymakers? Here’s the plan to transform Los Angeles Schools! Here’s the plan to make them spend money on at-risk kids.
Radical unschooling. Makes our unschoolers look like double a!