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Education Notes: Variations on a Theme
By David W. Kirkpatrick (November 06, 2008)
Senior Education Fellow
U.S. Freedom Foundation www.freedomfoundation.us

 
         A favorite columnist, the late Sydney Harris, occasionally used a collection of items he referred to as things learned while looking up something else.  Here are some similarly acquired, all concerned with education.
 
         "One moves up the Union food chain by being loyal to t he leadership who then pick people for the prized jobs. Competence is not necessarily a requirement." - James Eterno, United Federation of Teachers chapter leader, Jamaica High School, NYC, ICEUFT Blog, October 27, 2008
 
         "The paradox is that we want to reinvent or schools for the new century without makings fundamental changes. We prefer tinkering our way to Utopia...tinkering  won't get us there." Ronald A. Wolk, "Perspective   Still Tinkering," editorial, p. 4, Teacher Magazine, November/December 2004
 
         "Piecemeal attempts to change the present system haven't worked and won't work because the present system is a monopoly. pp 83-4, Jackie Ducote, " pp 79-88 "Strategies For Education Reform, Harrisburg, PA: The Commonwealth Foundation, 1990
 
         "People generally are far more willing to discuss reforming schools than to seriously ponder the reality that school is an obsolete institution whose time has come and gone, and that is ready for extinction and replacement." p.157, Lewis J. Perelman "School's Out, NY: Avon Book, 1992
 
         "Much of what passes for education in schools violates what both research and common sense tell us about how people learn best–and contradicts the way we expect them to live and work as adults." p. 28, Lynn Olson, "Designs for Change," Teacher Magazine, May/June 1993
 
         "Any reform that is acceptable to the educational establishment, and that can gain a majority in a legislature, federal or state, is bound to be worse then nothing."  Irving Kristol's First Law of Educational Reform.  The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 1994
 
         "The role of the public authorities must change...Instead of running everything, the educational authorities would evaluate the quality of education provided by others." Diane Ravitch, "First, Save the Schools," The New York Times, June 27, 1994
 
         "The near-impossibility of t rue educational reform has been documented in a number of studies."...the system can't be rehabilitated, only replaced." Howard Good, "Losing It, The Confessions of an Ex-School Board President," Education week, March 17, 2004
 
         "In my opinion, there is only one school which can form one's mind and that is not to go to any school." Anatole France, p. 36, Charles Hummel, Education today for the world of tomorrow, UNESCO, Paris/Geneva, 1977
 
         "The working of great institutions is mainly the result of a vast mass of routine, petty malice, self interest, carelessness and sheer mistake. Only a residual fraction is thought." George Santayana, p. 173, Jonathon Green, The Cynic's Lexicon, NY St Martin's Press, 1984.
 
         "The really central problem is the total obsolescence of our schools.  The school system simulates a factory life.  Its intent is to produce 40 million to 50 million factory workers for the next generation, for factories that won't be there." "Alvin Toffler, p. 4B, USA Today, March 11, 1986
 
         "It is simply not in the interest of the educational establishment to change, and it is politically naive to believe that this or any other bureaucracy will voluntary self-destruct." p. 28, Edward Rauchut, "I Quit," pp 26-27, Teacher Magazine, February 1992
 
         "The days of the traditional big-city school board are numbered...the boards have shown that they can't manage, can't deal effectively with unions, and shortchange the kids.  Instead, they end up serving chiefly the adults who work in the school system." Neal R. Pierce, Big-city schools boards endangered," p. A13, the Phila. Inquirer, Dec 2, 1996
 
         Kirkpatrick's First Law of Reform: Major change rarely lives up to the hopes of its supporters nor the fears of its opponents.
         Kirkpatrick's Second Law of Reform: If you want to maintain the status quo, go to the experts first; If you want to reform it, go to them last or, better yet, not at all.
 
         One problem with reform is that costs are diffuse, that is, spread among many, while benefits are concentrated on a relative few.  Savings may be so dispersed as to be of little consequence to individuals, while lost benefits may be expensive to a few, as when they lose their jobs.

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Copyright 2008 David W. Kirkpatrick
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