Philosopher John Dewey suggests a reconsideration of traditional approaches to schooling, giving fuller attention to the social development of the learner and the quality of his or her total experience. Robert M. Hutchins, noted educator and one-time chancellor of the University of Chicago, argues for a liberal arts education geared to the development of intellectual powers.
Philosopher Mortimer J. Adler contends that democracy is best served by a public school system that establishes uniform curricular objectives for all students. Educator John Holt argues that an imposed curriculum damages the individual and usurps a basic human right to select one’s own path of development.
B. F. Skinner, an influential proponent of behaviorism and professor of psychology, critiques the concept of “inner freedom” and links learning and motivation to the influence of external forces. Professor of psychology and psychiatry Carl R. Rogers offers the “humanistic” alternative to behaviorism, insisting on the reality of subjective forces in human motivation.
Child development professor David Elkind contends that the philosophical positions found in constructivism, though often difficult to apply, are necessary elements in a meaningful reform of educational practices. Jamin Carson, an assistant professor of education and former high school teacher, offers a close critique of constructivism and argues that the philosophy of objectivism is a more realistic and usable basis for the process of education.
Princeton politics professor Stephen Macedo expresses confidence in the public schools’ ability to teach students to become active participants in our democracy, suggesting that naysayers may wish to undermine all public institutions. Thomas B. Fordham Foundation president Chester E. Finn, Jr., contends that the diversity of the American population makes the public schools ill-equipped to produce the engaged citizens our democracy requires.
Harvard professor Gary Orfield and his research associates present evidence that school resegregation has been increasing almost everywhere in recent years, placing a cloud over the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Brown decision. Journalist and commentator Juan Williams, while recognizing the slow pace and backward steps involved in school desegregation, argues that the social and cultural changes inaugurated by Brown mark it as a monumental ruling.
Edd Doerr, executive director of Americans for Religious Liberty, asserts that a fair balance between free exercise rights and the obligation of neutrality has been achieved in the public schools. Warren A. Nord, a professor of the philosophy of religion, contends that the schools are still too secular and that a place in the curriculum must be found for religion.
Education policy expert Andrew Rotherham argues that new federally imposed accountability standards will enhance opportunity and overhaul failing schools. Education writer-editor Peter Schrag finds the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind act to be confusing, underfunded, and ultimately self-defeating.
High school teacher Nina Hurwitz and education consultant Sol Hurwitz assemble evidence from states that are leading the movement to set high standards of educational performance and cautiously conclude that it could stimulate long-overdue renewal. Teacher education director Ken Jones believes that much more than test scores must be used to develop an approach to school accountability that effectively blends federal, state, and local agencies and powers.
Frederick M. Hess, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, advocates a broadening of the definition of "public schooling" in light of recent developments such as vouchers, charter schools, and home schooling. Linda Nathan, Joe Nathan, Ray Bacchetti, and Evans Clinchy express a variety of concerns about the conceptual expansion Hess proposes.
Professor of education Charles L. Glenn argues that the Supreme Court’s decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris is an immediate antidote to the public school’s secularist philosophy. Professor of government Paul E. Peterson, while welcoming the decision, contends that the barricades against widespread use of vouchers in religious schools will postpone any lasting effects.
Former assistant secretaries of education Chester E. Finn, Jr., and Bruno V. Manno, along with Gregg Vanourek, vice president of the Charter School Division of the K12 education program, provide an update on the charter school movement, which, they contend, is reinventing public education. School superintendent Marc F. Bernstein sees increasing racial and social class segregation, church-state issues, and financial harm as outgrowths of the charter school movement.
Education professor Michael W. Apple examines the larger context of the "conservative restoration" in which much of the home schooling movement is lodged and sounds a number of socio-cultural warnings. Brian D. Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, feels that in the historical struggle over the control of influences on the younger generation, home schooling has strengthened the side of freedom and democracy.
Education consultant Richard A. Villa and education professor Jacqueline S. Thousand review the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and suggest strategies for fulfilling its intentions. Education professor Karen Agne argues that legislation to include students with all sorts of disabilities has had mostly negative effects and contributes to the exodus from public schools.
Education dean Patricia A. Wasley contends that schools and classrooms must be small if they are to be places where students’ personal and learning needs are met. Policy analyst Kirk A. Johnson, of the Heritage Foundation, argues that while small scale is a popular concept when it comes to class size, the cost is not justified by research findings.
Rosalie Pedalino Porter, director of the Research in English Acquisition and Development Institute, offers a close examination of the major research studies and concludes that there is no consistent support for transitional bilingual education programs. Richard Rothstein, a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute, reviews the history of bilingual education and argues that, although many problems currently exist, there is no compelling reason to abandon these programs.
Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), advocates a “get tough” policy for dealing with violent and disruptive students in order to send a clear message that all students are responsible for their own behavior. Alfie Kohn, author of numerous books on education, contends that heavy-handed disciplinary procedures fail to get at the causes of aggression and are detrimental to the building of a school culture of safety and caring.
Learning specialist Etta Kralovec and journalist John Buell attack the assignment of homework as a pedagogical practice, claiming that it disrupts family life and punishes the poor. Editor David Skinner negatively reacts to Kralovec and Buell’s book, The End of Homework, citing research to undermine their position.
Lowell Monke, an assistant professor of education, expresses deep concerns that the uncritical faith in computer technology in schools has led to sacrifices in intellectual growth and creativity. Frederick M. Hess, while sharing some of Monke’s observations, believes that the tools of technology, used appropriately, can support innovation and reinvention in education.
Steven Malanga, a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, draws on examples from the corporate world and from public school systems in Cincinnati, Iowa, and Denver to make his case for performance-based merit pay for teachers. Associate professor of education Al Ramirez contends that merit pay programs misconstrue human motivation and devalue the work of teachers.
Public policy researcher Robert Holland argues that current certification programs are inadequate, especially given the growing shortage of teachers. Educational professor Linda Darling-Hammond offers evidence of failure among alternative programs and responds to criticism of standard professional preparation.