Friday, March 11, 2011

Results in education

There's an interesting discussion going on at Bleeding Heart Libertarians on the issue of social justice in education. The question that comes to my mind is this: how are we measuring results in education? No Child Left Behind was an attempt to judge schools more rigorously, with the result that now 80% of schools are deemed to be failing. Which begs the question: failing at what?

One thing seems to pretty clear: schools are failing at satisfying parents and students. Another thing which is now evident is that they're failing at reaching government standards. Although they may be failing at both counts, there is no inherent relationship between the two. In particular, there is no guarantee that if schools lived up to government standards, they would also live up to ours. Conversely, what do we make of the case when government demands something other than what the public actually wants?

I worry about the general trend to formulate objective, quantitative standards by which we measure education's benefits. Education, ideally, is about helping a person live as a free person. The more highly standardized and quantized our measurements of education become, the less our education will be oriented toward freedom and creativity and the more it will be oriented toward fulfilling some preconceived vision of a good, productive workforce.

In my mind, then, the argument for school choice is more than a matter of giving students more opportunities. It is also a matter of identifying the value of education where it belongs: in the subjective. We don't know what future benefits a particular kind of education may have. People should be free and even encouraged to try different forms of it. God forbid that the government should have a monopoly on what people can and cannot learn in order to improve their own lives.

1 comment:

  1. I think you frame the issue very well.

    I'm tempted to make a post of my own, but I'm not sure I have a very complete thought - I wonder what it says about us that we have this tendency to want to reify ideas and processes like "education." It reminds me of the whole trouble with medieval Roman soteriology; "grace" is this sort of stuff of which the Church has a storehouse and which is then dispensed relatively mechanically via the Eucharist to the faithful.

    Now we are dead set on everybody getting their fair dose of "education." So what would an educational Reformation look like?


I love to hear feedback!