Terrific Atlantic article by ALIA WONG, ADRIENNE GREEN, AND LI ZHOU
Reason for despair: The continued dominance of a narrowly “practical” approach at all levels. This is the attitude that says that the exclusive purpose of education is to prepare workers for the labor force. It shows up, among other places, in the overwhelming focus on math and reading in K-12 and the fetishization of STEM fields and universal disparagement of the liberal arts in college. It also underlies the continuing privatization of public education through the promotion of charter schools and other aspects of the “reform” agenda as well as the ongoing defunding of state universities—the idea being that if education serves the purposes of the market, it should be under the control of the market.
Reason for hope: The gathering resistance to this mentality, which I see in the movement for tuition-free, or at least debt-free, public higher education; in the opposition to high-stakes testing in K-12, which has led to the repeal and replacement of No Child Left Behind; and in the proliferation of new alternative educational models. Students (and their parents) are getting tired of being treated like revenue streams and exploitable resources. But whether we will gather sufficient political strength to oust the entrenched interests on the other side is still a very open question.