Many or most problems in urban education are rooted in Ronald Reagan’s “Voodoo Economics.” Yes, schools declined after the 1973 Energy Crisis started the deindustrialization of America. But, Reagan’s “Supply Side Economics” accelerated the tragedy by offering tax incentives for closing still-profitable factories. Families cratered in the face of the subsidized and rapid destruction of jobs, erasing so many hopes.
The implicit message of Sarah Garland’s Hechinger Report, Why Is a Reagan-Era Report Driving Today’s Education Reform?, is that the failure to improve schools is also rooted in Reaganism.
Garland notes, “the Republican-driven revolution is being driven home, as never before, by a Democratic president.” She recalls that many of the proposals in Obama’s RttT and SIG programs seem to be “copied right out of the 1983 report [Reagan’s A Nation at Risk.]
Garland begins by linking the dubious policy of value-added evaluations with A Nation of Risk. I would gladly lay the blame for today’s testing mania on Reagan, but in the only weak part of her thought-provoking piece, I don’t think she nailed down the case for such a linkage. Clearly, however, Garland is correct in her observation, “the Obama administration appears to be doubling down on the standardized testing that critics say was a misinterpretation of A Nation at Risk.”
Similarly, Garland illustrates the test and punish mentality when quoting Chester Finn. Finn supports testing for teacher and student accountability because, “If there’s no sanction or punishment for not learning, then why work harder to learn more?”
I wonder if there is a reason, besides avoiding pain, why human beings might teach and learn?