Wed, 03 Oct 2007

RE Bob Herbert, Our Schools Must Do Better

Herbert errs when he suggests "our schools must do better." That is, he thinks these are "our schools." To analyze the possibility that he might be wrong, we need to ask: Why have school? To examine that, we must admit there never has been a single public school system in the US, but five or six school systems, segregated by class and race, teaching different substance, using different methods, depending mostly on the students' parental income. There are pre-law schools, pre-Walmart schools, and some in between.

Grasping inequality in school and society, we can say schools exist to do skills training (reading, math), some babysitting, much nation-building ("we are all in the same boat," when we are not all in the same boat), and schools create hope, real or false.

Societies promising youth perpetual war and meaningless jobs  make peculiar demands on schools, like NCLB's relentless regimentation, creating an atmosphere of fear and opportunism, the milieu of training slaves, dangling false hope as a carrot.

Until social movements rise to win economic and social change connected to school reform, Herbert's analysis amounts to washing the air on one side of a screen door.  Today, these are "their" schools, not "ours."

Dr Rich Gibson
Professor Emeritus
San Diego State University
College of Education