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Module 8 – A Nation at Risk or a Manufactured Crisis? August 22, 2013

Filed under: Standard 12. Professional citizenship — lktaylor @ 8:42 pm
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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


Module 5 – The Progressive Era

Filed under: Standard 12. Professional citizenship — lktaylor @ 7:47 pm
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What were the aims of the Progressive Era leaders?

Dewey, who is referred to as “the father of progressive education”, advocated for an educational system that had at its core a mission to promote democracy and create a “New Education” that reflects the ”larger changes in society” (Fraser, 2001, p. 234). This philosophy embraces a view of education that expands on the more typical and individualistic view that was limited to the student, parent, and teacher

George Counts emphasized the significant impact that society and culture has on the life and education of humans. He argued that it is ineffective and counterproductive to educate individuals without accounting for the culture in which he/she is born. Such consideration requires educators to recognize that children are a product of one society at a given place and time, and that education must strive to shape attitudes, tastes and ideas in relation to these factors.

What beliefs about education and society drove them?

Both Dewey and Counts believed that children could not be educated from an individualistic perspective, as if in a vacuum. The specific society into which a child is born as well as what kind of society its members are seeking impacts what is taught, how it is delivered, and the environment in which it all takes place.

What appeals and/or does not appeal to you and why?

These philosophies are very relevant to today’s educational system. Our current quest for multicultural education addresses these very issues. Educators recognize, or at least should recognize, that it is imperative to account for the diverse cultures that make up our student population. These considerations increase opportunities for all students to be successful. Further, they allow educators to develop a curriculum that reflects the shared goals and values of a given society.


Fraser, J. W. (2010). The School in the United States: A Documentary History. New York, NY: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.


Schooling in the North American Colonies

Filed under: Standard 12. Professional citizenship — lktaylor @ 7:42 pm
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Chapter 1 in Fraser’s The School in the United States: A Documentary History (2001, pp 1-16) outlined prominent attitudes and philosophies regarding schooling in the North American colonies in 1620-1770. During this time necessary education was provided mainly through the family, church and community. Three cultures were interacting at this time including Native Americans, African Americans and Europeans. The differences in these cultures lead to many clashes in how the children were educated. These clashes usually were taken care of by the force and dominance of the Europeans. Native American children were taken away from their families in order to educate them the American way. Slave owners also often did not support the education of their slaves due to the fear of losing them to freedom. In 1711 it was necessary to enact a law stating that slaves could not be freed based on their level of education. In 1642 a law required that heads of households be responsible for the literacy of all children in the home. In 1647 this was extended to the establishment of a school for every town.

It is hard to imagine today a time when it was acceptable to kidnap children because of their culture in order to educate them according to a dominant philosophy. I question the motives of the times that promoted this practice. Did they really believe that the children would be better off or were they simply trying to exert their dominance and maintain power? Do you think that the children WERE better off getting educated by the Europeans during this time?

Looking back from my vantage point today, I believe there were much better alternatives to some of the actions that were taken back then in the name of education. However, “presentism” (Fritzberg, 2013) may cause us to be quick to condemn reformers of this era on the grounds that they were short sighted and intolerant of differences. We come to this conclusion with the advantage of knowing what has transpired historically since then. Maybe we would have not been so critical during those times if we did not have the knowledge and experiences we have today…


Fraser, J. W. (2010). The School in the United States: A Documentary History. New York, NY: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Fritzberg, G. (2013, April 9). Re: Summary remarks on the colonial era [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from: https://bbweb-prod.spu.edu/webapps/portal/


Standard 12: Professional Citizenship

One of the most fascinating and useful connections I have made as I engaged in EDU 6120 – American Education: Past and Present is the strong link that can be found between historical developments in education and current educational issues. As a professional in the field of education I have found that it is not only necessary but it is my duty to research and be informed on current issues pertaining to educational policy and practice. Conversations amongst practitioners in the field, policy makers, and the public in general are critical in order to move education and those it serves forward. As Nancy Flanagan writes, “Unlike other nations… we have never had a structured, purposeful national conversation about gutting and reorganizing the system around the kind of education we want for all children.” (Flanagan, 2013) I am better equipped now to engage in these conversations as an informed educator and an advocate for children.

Investigating the original purposes set forth for common schooling provides a standard against which we can measure the educational reforms of today. Thomas Jefferson’s bill of 1779 titled “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge” was one of the first forums in which the concept of common schooling was articulated. The system recommended in this bill was designed to systematically ensure that the population was adequately equipped and informed in order to defend the rights and liberties of its members (Fraser, 2010, pp. 20-23). He also writes, “The general objects to this law are to provide an education adapted to the years, to the capacity and the condition of every one…” (Fraser, 2010, p. 24). Benjamin Franklin believed that a major purpose of schools was to prepare all citizens for a vocation while they are young and that schools should be more useful than ornamental (Urban & Wagner, 2009, p. 62). Horace Mann advocated for schools that promoted national unity as well as reached citizens that were young and could be “molded.” (Fraser, 2010, pp. 45)

Common schooling was also intended to benefit members of society regardless of, gender, race or socioeconomic status. There are many historical leaders and programs that spoke to this issue throughout history. Benjamin Rush supported this notion when he advocated for the education of women in his 1787 speech to the Board of Visitors of the young Ladies’ Academy at Pennsylvania (Fraser, 2010, pp. 26-29). Racial equality in education was reinforced through Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These gentlemen served as leaders in empowering blacks to become educated, participate fully in society, and become leaders themselves (Urban & Wagoner, 2009, pp. 173-177). The effects of poverty on the notion of common schooling were addressed under the administration of Lyndon Johnson in 1965 through his “War on Poverty”. It was at this time that Head Start was founded. Head Start provided educational, medical, and nutritional services to low income children and their families.

Two current educational issues that can find roots in educational history are the newly unveiled Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the quest for equal educational opportunities for those in poverty. Both of these issues relate to the original notion of common schooling for all. The CCSS pertains to the common aspect of this philosophy in that it provides a consistent set of learning standards across the country. Reforms pertaining to the education of those in poverty pertains to the for all aspect of common schooling. There is no doubt that there are fears and concerns that fuel controversy related to these reforms. To name just two, CCSS can be viewed as a “top down” organization in which there is a centralized system of standards with a “one size fits all” methodology that does not fit all students (Brown, 2013). Also, not everyone believes that directing public funds towards the education of students from low income families is wise or that the distributions are fair during this time of economic uncertainty (Casey, 2012). However, I believe that if we view these endeavors against the backdrop of our nation’s historical quest for equal education for everyone, these and other reforms will be put in proper perspective.

To elaborate on these two educational issues and how they relate to our country’s educational history I have included the following links to two inquiry papers written by me:

Early Childhood Education: Are We Heading in the Right Direction?

Common Core State Standards- Considering the Benefits and Concerns

It is my hope that those who practice the humble art of teaching or are otherwise dedicated to the advancement of education for all are able to look through the lens of our past and gain insights into what is good for children now as well as forge an informed path to future educational reforms.


Brown, M. (Producer). (2013, May 28). Concern over new ‘common core’ standards in education. [News series episode]. In America live with Megyn Kelly. Retrieved June 6, 2013, from http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/america-live

Casey, D. (2012, August 20). Report: Nevada rural districts receiving too much money. In Education Week. Retrieved August 22, 2013, from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek

Flanagan, N. (2013, July 23). Is public education on its death bed? Should it be?. In Education Week. Retrieved August 22, 2013, from http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers

Fraser, J. W. (2010). The School in the United States: A Documentary History. New York, NY: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Urban, W.J. & Wagoner, J. L. (2009). American education: A History. New York, NY: Routledge.