Richard Elmore: “The definition of learning for society at large as been given over to political professionals, who are educational amateurs of the worst kind.”

Dear Commons Community,

Richard F. Elmore, Gregory Anrig Research Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has a scathing article in Inside Education, lamenting what is becoming of public education in this country. His piece derives from a MOOC he is teaching, called Leaders of Learning, that is addressed primarily to the potential future leaders in the learning sector.  His course represents “my deep fascination with the future of learning as a social activity, and my equal skepticism about the future of institutionalized schooling as a setting for learning….I am, in short, moving away from my earlier conviction that schooling is learning enacted for public purposes through public institutions, and moving toward a broader vision for learning as a social activity upon which society depends for its future development.”

He goes on to rock the education reform movement in this country that emanated from A Nation at Risk in the early 1980s.

“…educational reformers have for the past thirty years or so deliberately and systematically engaged in public policy choices that make schools less and less capable of responding to the movement of learning into society at large.

Standards and expectations have become more and more literal and highly prescriptive in an age where human beings will be exercising more and more choice over what and how they will learn.

Testing and assessment practices have become more and more conventional and narrow as the range of competencies  required to negotiate digital culture has become more complex and highly variegated.

Teacher preparation, hiring, induction, and evaluation practices have become more and more rigid and hierarchical in an age where the teaching function is migrating out into a more individualized and tailored set of learning environments.

We are continuing to invest massively in hard-boundary physical structures in an age where learning is moving into mobile, flexible, and networked relationships…”

His conclusion:

“Students are schooled for adult approval and conformity to highly standardized, institutionalized expectations, created by people in positions of public authority who have no knowledge whatsoever of how learning works as an individual and social activity.

The definition of learning for society at large has been given over to political professionals, who are educational amateurs of the worst kind. The broader society, thankfully, is smarter than the institutionalized schooling sector.”

I do not agree with everything Elmore is saying but he is absolutely right in his conclusion that education has been given over to “political professionals” in our national and state departments of education who are fed by interest groups and corporate-affiliated foundations who clamor for accountability, privatization, and a de-professionalization of teaching.


Comments are closed.