Sunday, June 22, 2014

Public Education Is Not Broken - And Bill Gates Should't Be Telling People How to Fix It

So, after I criticized Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation's disproportionate influence on discussions of public education, a friend asked, "But don't you agree that the system is broken?"

No, I don't agree that the system is broken - because public schools are not failing.

Most people criticize public education as a failure, at the same time as they praise their own kids' schools. It's the same story as Americans' faith in Congress - hate Congress, love their representatives.

American public schools educate a higher percentage of the population and send a greater percentage on to college than at any time in history. They do this as successfully as any other industrialized nation, and there is no shortage of college-educated workers for available jobs. And the United States does this with the most diverse population of any country in the world.

On standardized measures of comparisons, American schools are ranked number one in the world when scores are corrected for percentages of poverty. And, there is no evidence that public school systems in other countries are producing any better doctors or engineers or accountants or attorneys or entrepreneurs or salesman or financial analysts or …. well, you get the point.

The challenges faced by American schools are about equity of opportunity, and the problem of a one-size-fits-all system based on college degrees and Carnegie units. The economy and the public education is a complex emergent systems that requires flexibility and adaptability, and that very quality is being compromised by the push for uniformity and standardization from a corporate-model which prizes job training as the primary purpose of education.

It's not.

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