It is time for Democrats to file for a divorce from a four-decade bipartisan education policy marriage. The case is clearer now than ever. There are irreconcilable differences. A marriage with one partner committed to competition as an improvement driver and the other to equity and democracy is an inevitable failure. A partnership in which one party prioritizes tax cuts and deregulation for the wealthy and the other quality education for everyone results in abuse of the least powerful partner. A record of persistent child abuse makes a complete separation a necessity.
Democrats: If not for your own moral integrity, do it for the kids.
Abandon these abusive ideas and practices:
- Like in business, competition will drive improvement in education. Get a divorce from school choice and merit pay for teachers.
- Some people need to be told what to do and forced to do it. Get a divorce from using state standardized test results as a tool to threaten, punish, and shame students and educators into submission.
The last four years have been a painful object lesson for the unavoidable conclusion that some people believe their own lies, while others lie intentionally with no remorse. Demonstrably, the administrations of Presidents Reagan, both Bushes, and Trump cared not a whit about the education of poor and minority children. Their good-intention and anti-poverty rhetoric was window dressing to cover their intent to withdraw from the government's help for anyone but the wealthy. They were intentional liars. However, their persistent investment in promulgating market-driven, out-for-yourself, authoritarian ideas paid off. As intended, they penetrated the national consciousness, chipping away at the communitarian ideals of the New Deal and the labor and civil rights movements. The result has been suborning the abuser's right to dominate and to deflect attention from the structural inequality that is the cause of differential student achievement.
End the abusive practices now, Democrats. Initiate and finalize the education policy divorce. Do it while you have the power to do so.
Arthur H. Camins is a lifelong educator. He writes about education and social justice. He works part-time with curriculum developers at UC Berkeley as an assessment specialist. He retired recently as Director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education at Stevens Institute of Technology. He has taught and been an administrator in New York City, Massachusetts, and Louisville, Kentucky. The ideas expressed in this article are his alone.
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