One of the recurring themes at the recent Program on Education Policy and Governance conference on improving education was that the more you expand the franchise (i.e. allow people to vote), the better the education. Good education seems to be one of the first things people with voting power demand.
Good education seems to be one of the first things people with voting power demand.
This is why I tend to see America’s current education free-fall as a sign of a diminished democracy as much as it is a pedagogical failure. And this is why a fight in East Ramapo Central School District, a growing suburb of New York City (just twenty miles north of Manhattan), is so fascinating.
As the New York Times’ Peter Applebome describes it in Saturday’s paper, Orthodox Jews have taken over the district’s school board (they have seven of nine seats). The problem? Eighty-five percent of the students in the district schools are black or Hispanic. Even worse, reports Applebome, most of the Jews in the district send their children to private schools (where the enrollment is 19,000, compared to 8,000 students in the public schools).
Not surprisingly, a group called Padres Unidos has petitioned the State Education Department to remove the Jewish board members and, also not surprisingly, Ramapo board president David Schwartz called the group, in Applebome’s words, “chronic complainers.” The cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic divide problem is complicated by finance questions. Not only has
The other day I noted that an expert panel had decided, according to Education Week, that “the skills considered necessary for the 21st-century workplace” were “critical thinking and analytic reasoning,” “teamwork and complex communications,” and “resiliency and conscientiousness.” I was skeptical, not because those aren’t important skills, but because they didn’t have much to do with the twenty-first century.
Who better to speak to contemporary American youth than one of the nation's most prolific inventors and entrepreneurs?
Photo by Andrew Malone.
Then along came an email from Dee Selvaggi, a former member of a New Jersey school board and a contributor to The BEV Challenge, recommending “a very interesting book,” Benjamin Franklin on Education (edited by John Hardin Best, Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 1962). Wrote Dee, Franklin’s “concern [was] about the content presented to youth so they could function well in the new contemporary America.”
Who better to speak to contemporary American youth than one of the nation’s most prolific inventors and entrepreneurs? According to Franklin,
The good Education of Youth has been esteemed by wise Men in all Ages, as the surest Foundation of the Happiness both of private Families and of Commonwealths. Almost all Governments have therefore made it
This post is part of a series by guest bloggers who know first-hand the strengths and flaws of America's dominant form of education governance: the local school board. Each author will draw on their personal experiences to answer the question posed for the Board's Eye View Challenge: Can school boards improve schools?
Guest blogger Dee Selvaggi served on the Matawan-Aberdeen (NJ) Regional School District board from 1990--1991, attended board meetings in the Holmdel (NJ) Township School District from 1991-1998 (as a parent), coordinating over 200 volunteers for the district’s Operation Get Out the Vote initiative and serving on multi-year district committees. She also coordinated a statewide (NJ) information network for board members and parents and engaged in advocacy as an individual at state board of education meetings and legislative hearings. She also served on the Monmouth Academy Board of Trustees, Howell, NJ, from 2005-2008.
What’s it like, trying to improve schools from the inside?
Perplexing, frustrating, and exhausting. Yes, I’ve taken on issues, but the idea of “winning” seems elusive—you’re defeated either by blatant digging-in-of-heels by opponents or by quiet subterfuge. Thus, I’m inclined to pass on an analogy made by a former board colleague, who said it was like walking on a beach and leaving footprints which are then washed away by the waves.
What’s it like, trying to improve schools from the
I wince every time I read something like this:
The committee found the skills considered necessary for the 21st-century workplace generally fall into three categories: cognitive, such as critical thinking and analytic reasoning to learn “deeply”; interpersonal, such as teamwork and complex communications; and intrapersonal, such as resiliency and conscientiousness.
The “political life,” as Thucydides described it, was the way out of poverty.
That’s from a recent Education Week story titled, “Panel Parses Out Skills Needed for 21st-Century Workplace.” I realize I’m not the only one to notice, but the problem—didn’t one need cognitive, personal, and intrapersonal abilities in the twentieth-century workplace? Or the nineteenth? Or the second?—was brought home not long ago when I saw that Earl Shorris had died. Shorris, a writer and social critic, as the headline on the New York Times obituary had it: “Fought Poverty With Knowledge.” And it was not the knowledge that proponents of twenty-first century skills are pushing; it was “rigorous readings and explications of Aristotle on logic, Plato on justice and Kant’s theory of morality.”
Shorris came to this insight about poverty while working on a book in the early 1990s, when he met Viniece Walker, a female inmate in a New York State prison, a “graduate of crackhouses,” as he would later write in a masterful 1997 piece for Harper’s. By that time he had concluded that
numerous forces—hunger, isolation, illness, landlords, police, abuse, neighbors, drugs, criminals, and racism,
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About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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