Friday, September 16, 2016

About the Brookings release

...which I have heard best described (thank you, Heshan, for your way with words) as "not a study--a book report about your friends' work"...on Question 2.  None of what they're linking to is new work; all of it has been debunked in one way or another (or several), as a quick Google of any one of those plus "debunking" will give you.
There was some good tweeting about this last night--see, for example, James Noonan, Jack Schneider, and (as aforementioned) Heshan Weeramuni--which I'd recommend, but I want to continue a thought I had addressing a specific direction of the release.
One of the things the Brookings release appears to take issue with is the question of democratic governance, and the electorate's concern around that and their school system. They seem to see that as a distraction and dismiss it as worthy of concern.

This gets the question of education in Massachusetts exactly backwards.
 And forgive me if you've heard this before.

We don't, in Massachusetts, have a democratic system of governance in order to have schools.
We have schools in order to have a democratic system of governance.
Why do we have education?
Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties...
When the Constitution of the Commonwealth was being written, the colonists hadn't won the war yet. There was no United States; there was no "state" of Massachusetts. John Adams and his fellow (men) who participated in the Constitutional convention in Boston were creating not much more of an idea of the state they wanted to exist.
Very basic to that idea of a state for the Massachusetts writers--and this is important, because it wasn't the case everywhere--was the idea that this was something that had to continue. They couldn't just set up a system of governance; they had to ensure that the next generation, and the generation after that, and so forth, could continue to have a democracy.

Now, if closely (or not so closely) questioned, there's no doubt that many (most, possibly all) of those writers wouldn't include everyone in their idea of who should be participating. But they did lay out a system of support for democracy that was set up to be able to include everyone, because it was intended to grow. Note the language:
...and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people...
There's no doubt that, even while their list would not be ours, their list already was revolutionary, including "different orders of the people," and further, charging responsibility of this spread of "opportunities and advantages" very clearly: shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates...
"Legislatures" meant then what it does now (even if Beacon Hill then was still John Hancock's cow pasture). "Magistrates" is the local officials of the communities: school committee members, certainly, but also those who allocate budgets locally.

That democratic system of governance, thus, oversees the system of education which will ensure that the democratic system of governance will continue.
Far from being a distraction, it is the foundation.

All quotes from the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Chapter V, Section II. For more on this (and if you haven't see it), here's an ED Talk I did at the MTA Summer Institute two summers ago). 

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