Education is local

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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17 Responses

  1. I guess I have trouble with the notion that in an increasingly inter-connected world where a person’s boss may reside in an entirely different state (my situation) and companies increasingly rely on intercontinental networks, etc… not to mention cultural gaps that are narrowing by the nano-second, that it’s wise to continue to let education be controlled at the extreme local level.

    Take a trip sometime to Corbin, KY. Ask the administrators there what attendance is like, what kind of priority is placed on education by local citizens, etc. Then ask yourself if it’s fair to take an innocent child, throw him into that school system and say, “Sorry you were born in a place where a 10th grade education is considered adequate, but hey, at least Uncle Sam isn’t in your business.”Report

  2. A national curriculum opens up a lot of educational opportunities, but it isn’t meant to address the things that cause some poor schools to fail. That specific problem is best addressed with busing and socio-economic integration. In my experience curriculum is very rarely the reason kids fail. It’s almost exclusively based on their home life. Anything we can do to minimize the negative impact of these students’ private lives, the better. A unified national curriculum facilitates more inter-school collaboration which has the same effect as busing, albeit to a lesser degree.

    Local school districts are best suited to address non-academic issues that connect to education. They can connect kids to social services, they underatand the geographic realities of their districts, they can dig into their attendance issues or voice concerns over their home life. But the nuts and bolts parts of education: what we teach, how we teach it, how teachers are compensated, how much influence unions should have…those are issues that are fairly generic across the board and can be addressed at the national level.Report

    • Then what exactly does the national curriculum achieve? Why should talented, creative teachers be bound by a generic, centrally-planned curriculum? Is the problem really that teachers and their schools can’t come up with a decent curriculum? And how would this national curriculum be implemented? Indeed, the great thing about charters is they decentralize education even further than the district level – often side-stepping unions as well.Report

      • I would direct you back to my guest post on the subject for the full details, but a national curriculum would actually provide more flexibility for teachers while I also augmenting their current work by providing expanded collaboration opportunities. And added benefit is that it would kill the spectre of Intelligent Design.

        As for implementation i would say you just link it to federal education dollars.Report

        • Yes, a national curriculum might do that – or it might turn into a special-interest-ridden, creativity-killing ball and chain on teacher flexibility. And of course it might kill the spectre of ID – or it might nationalize it.

          When you play with fire – that’s one thing. When you play with fire at a national level, that’s another.Report

  3. I’m not sure how a more loosely-defined curriculum would limit teacher flexibility.

    And there are just as many special interests at the local level than at the national level.Report

  4. Well ID is the best example. That is a ‘local’ problem created by zealots in certain districts.Report

  5. I don’t think it’s practical to have it specifically forbid subjects, other than to say that nothing taught during the elective blocks can be in direct conflict with the required material.Report

  6. Sam M says:

    “That specific problem is best addressed with busing and socio-economic integration. ”

    So in rural areas… where do you bus people to? With whom do you integrate them?

    Also, as for Corbin, KY, I guess I live in a place kind of like that. And to be honest, our kids would be WAY better off if we dispensed with many of the great, advanced classes we now offer due to mandates and instead offered a servicable vo-tech component. Because, um, that’s the kind of jobs we have here. I am not saying all classes should be shop class. But some should be. But as it stands, our administrators are stuck worrying about all kinds of special ed, AP and other bells and whistles. Those are great things, sure. But they cost an awful lot.Report

  7. Kyle says:

    I couldn’t agree more (though I think there’s more room for federal involvement in school reform/success) but the one thing I’d add is the idea that just as potential solutions don’t apply equally everywhere, neither do criticisms. The latter is something I know I struggle with when discussing school reform.

    Where I see a potential problem is in the possibility of local control/solutions turning into relativistic success, which can impede the kind of action necessary to ensure that say kids in rural Mississippi or – for that matter – Stamford, Connecticut know how to read (good?).Report