Saturday, September 14, 2013

Education as a Fashion Industry

Daliah Lithwick writes of going to her child's parent night and and having no clue what the school was telling her. Ms. Lithwick is an editor and writer, a graduate of Yale and Stanford Law, and presumably no dummy, whatever her attachment to some weird religious traditions. Why exactly did she find school personnel speaking in tongues?

at times yesterday I felt as if I were toggling between a business school seminar and the space program; acronyms alone—seemingly random sequences of letters like MAP and SOL and EAPE—were being deployed more frequently than actual words. To be sure, the teachers seemed as maddened by it as the parents were. Even if we can all agree about the singular benefits of “project-based learning across the curriculum," I am less than perfectly certain any of us knows what it means.

“Un-levelling.” We do that now. And “fitnessgram testing?” Possibly the new un-levelling.

She notes that the teachers didn't seem much clearer on the concepts than she was.

But let's answer the question of why this was all so incomprehensible. Because education is a fashion industry. It's a fashion industry for the same sorts of reasons women's clothing is. Clothing designers want to keep selling women new styles of clothes. Educational publishers want to keep selling new books, computer programs, and a plethora of mostly useless teaching aids. This requires that styles change frequently. In this they are aided and abetted by education schools where profs like to do mostly worthless research and get a cut of the profits on new educational products.

One of the first tasks in reforming education is to sieze control from the publishers. Is the new Common Core approach going to do that? Probably not, but it seems like a start.