Last night Microsoft Wes Miller posted on Twitter how not everyone should learn programing but how many students should learn logic; I posted something about pie and we had a brief discussion. The discussion ventured into science, programming, and education. The whole thing reminded me of the post I keep trying and failing to write because I honestly get caught up in its complexity. So today I will try again and hopefully come across like I know what I’m saying.
It all began with Michelle Rhee. Rhee at the time was the Chancellor of Education for Washington DC. She had earned a reputation as a reformer, a no nonsense leader who barreled through the DC education system like a flood. Her plan for reforming schools through a mix of testing, teacher accountability, and essentially turning education into a results oriented endeavor earned her plaudits and a Time cover. Her style also earned her the scorn of DC teachers and parents, especially African-Americans. Many felt that she was the reason her boss loss his reelection.
Rhee represents, along with the documentary Waiting for Superman and codeproject.org, a trend in education reform. It’s a trend that has been around for a while now, going back to when I was a kid. It doesn’t have a catchy name, maybe we could call it extreme education reformation. It has a tendency to be selective in what it reforms and who it will impact; and it tends not to treat the underlying problems in education. Another aspect of the trend is that it tends to be about something other than education.
When I was younger, around 7th grade, the big education debate was around vouchers and private school. Vouchers allow students who meet specific qualifications to get into private schools where it was felt they could perform better. In fact the biggest education story was the decision of then President Bill Clinton to send his daughter to a private school as opposed to a public one. It became such an issue that one of our local news stations came to my school to do a bit.
The controversy then was many saw Clinton’s decision as an implicit acknowledgement of failure of public education. It became a Republican cause to push vouchers as a form of education reform. It was an education trend that lasted thru most of the 90s. The voucher debate was interesting because it was kind of Darwinian; only the qualified would get in. It also left a lot out of the conversation; how many vouchers would be available, what were the private institutions’ criteria for admittance, what would you do with the kids left behind.
The issue with vouchers (also known as school choice by more conservative leaning people) morphed slowly into charter schools (like private public schools) and magnate schools. At that time the trend shifted to privatizing education. Companies like were pushing