In September's Harper's
, Peter Schrag
offers an interesting interpretation of the past fifty years in education in his article “Schoolhouse Crock.” Schrag is excellent with description, and I found his overall picture of the educational reform landscape compelling. He argues that in attempting to meet all of the demands placed upon it, schools necessarily come up short.
Having diagnosed the current state of education, where are we left? Schrag writes, “Are schools good enough? Of course not. But then, they never were…Perhaps it is time we thought of schools as places where our children might simply learn something–not just for our benefit, not just for the nation's, but for their own.” Despite the strength of the descriptive element of his article, this conclusion is weak. Schools–as Schrag has so elegantly demonstrated in his article–can never simply be anything. There are too many competing hopes, expectations and ideals lodged deep within them. In fact, if one took Schrag's own suggestion seriously, one would have to commit to changing schools. And though we may–as Schrag suggests–want to shift the axis of our educational efforts from external fears–the Russians, Indians or Chinese–and to our student's needs, we will nonetheless still find ourselves–possibly despite our better judgment–hoping that we will be able to change the current order of things through schooling. This isn't to point out a sophomoric lapse in logic. Instead, though there is a danger in reforming schools, something is lost when we give up the effort.