From Glenn Arbery in Teaching The Teachers, Broadening the Vision, an introduction to the Dallas Institute:
Our current, well-meaning educational reform, I am afraid, tends to prefer the fixed; it wants standards, and it bucks against what might yet turn out to be one of the wisest and best omissions of the United States Constitution: its refusal to provide any federal scheme of education. Any instruction primarily aimed at competency tests and constantly monitored for its standard “correlations” will tend, in the name of knowledge, twoard this pre-Promethean condition of the standardized, in which thought is implicitly understood as measurable test-behavior. But then, of course, there is real teaching.
Education takes place in a relationship between a teacher and a student. The only people who care more than the teacher about the child’s well-being and success is that child’s parent. Therefore, the people who have the most invested in the child’s well-being and success are the teacher and the child’s parents.
Anybody else who cares at all, cares for different reasons: abstract reasons. For example, the administrator cares that the school is well run, that the students do well on their tests, that they learn as a body. But his concern is more abstract, more general, than the concern of the parent or the teacher.
The concern of the school board is even further removed from the particular student. Farther out still are the employees and the government officials who speak about education.
They all care. But they all care about education in increasingly abstract terms as you move away from the particular student. The government wants statistical data that demonstrate that their programs are working. The teacher wants personal transformation in the individual student – in Jared or Eva or Kelly or Matthew.
But for the last 150 years, the power to make decisions has drifted further and further from the teacher/parent team to the decider of abstractions. Those who have the most power to locate resources have the least concern for the student.
If education is a means of social engineering by the wise men of the age, then it is easy to understand why they would transfer authority from the teacher to the state and then federal government.
But if education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue in the particular student, this transfer of authority CANNOT POSSIBLY SUCCEED under any circumstances.
Wisdom and virtue can only be nourished in a mentoring, discipleship relationship. There is no way our society would actually tolerate such a relationship in a school. The school is structured for management, not discipleship. Students lives are broken up into short units of specialized instruction, thus eliminating the risk that any adult could have a profound impact on any youth.
We may be confronting the ultimate test of our form of democracy. We have gradually shifted more and more authority to further and further removed powers in all areas of our lives. The Republicans champion the corporations, who are drunk on bureaucratic bumbling. The Democrats champion the state, which is a bumbling, bureaucratic drunk.
Both parties destroy what makes politics worth having: the community bound by friendship on the one hand and the soul that makes such a community possible on the other.
Certainly schools are no longer focal points of communities. They are laboratories and the community is their enemy.