Some of the main tenets of A Nation at Risk are that we have become complacent in our quest for excellence in education and have settled into a level of mediocrity. Standardized tests are showing a decline and we are fast falling behind other nations in regards to educational achievement. Such indicators point to the critical need for the U.S. to develop a “Learning Society” and effectively utilize the tools we have available to reform our educational system.
The Manufactured Crisis (Berliner and Biddle, 1995) states that these fervent claims of deficiencies in our schools are indicative of an ulterior agenda of the government that aims to weaken our public schools and unfairly favor privileged students. Berliner and Biddle point out that the Japanese schools that are so often held up as ideal actually have significant failures of their own.
I am not convinced that we are in such dire straits as indicated in A Nation at Risk. As much as the authors tried to portray their position as one that supports teachers, it put all of the social ills of society at the feet of educators. This is a burden that likely discourages talented college graduates from entering the field of education.
In regards to Berliner and Biddle’s conspiracy claims, such a focus seems to distract from true reform. So often I hear of such groups constantly looking over their shoulders rather than at the actual problem. It takes a lot of effort and resources to fight a perceived threat. If this energy and money went directly to our educational system we might be able to implement some true and effective changes.
These articles are great, though. The conversation needs to keep going and everyone needs to take part. Hopefully real reform will come of it.
Berliner, D. & Biddle, B. (1995). The manufactured crisis – Myths, fraud, and the attack on America’s public schools. MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company
The National Commission on Excellence in Education. (1983, April). A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. Retrieved August 22, 2013, from http://datacenter.spps.org/uploads/sotw_a_nation_at_risk_1983.pdf