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PART 1. Basic Theoretical Issues
ISSUE 1. Should Schooling Be Based on Social Experiences?
YES: John Dewey, from Experience and Education (Macmillan, 1938)
NO: Robert M. Hutchins, from The Conflict in Education in a Democratic Society (Harper & Row, 1953)
Philosopher John Dewey suggests a reconsideration of traditional approaches to schooling, giving fuller attention to the social developmentof 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 thedevelopment of intellectual powers.
ISSUE 2. Should the Curriculum Be Standardized for All?
YES: Mortimer J. Adler, from “The Paideia Proposal: Rediscovering the Essence of Education,” American School Board Journal (July 1982)
NO: John Holt, from Escape From Childhood (E. P. Dutton, 1974)
Philosopher Mortimer J. Adler contends that democracy is best served by a public school system that establishes uniform curricularobjectives 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 ofdevelopment.
ISSUE 3. Should Behaviorism Shape Educational Practices?
YES: B. F. Skinner, from Beyond Freedom and Dignity (Alfred A. Knopf, 1971)
NO: Carl R. Rogers, from Freedom to Learn for the Eighties (Merrill, 1983)
B. F. Skinner, an influential proponent of behaviorism and professor of psychology, critiques the concept of “inner freedom” and linkslearning 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 ofsubjective forces in human motivation.
ISSUE 4. Is Constructivism the Best Philosophy of Education? YES: David Elkind, from “The Problem with Constructivism,” The Educational Forum (Summer 2004) NO: Jamin Carson, from “Objectivism and Education: A Repsonse to David Elkind’s ‘The Problem with Constructivism’,” The Educational Forum (Spring 2005)
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.
PART 2. Current Fundamental Issues
ISSUE 5. Can the Public Schools Produce Good Citizens?
YES: Stephen Macedo, from “Crafting Good Citizens,” Education Next (Spring 2004)
NO: Chester E. Finn, Jr., from “Faulty Engineering,” Education Next (Spring 2004)
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.
ISSUE 6. Has Resegregation Diminished the Impact of Brown?
YES: Gary Orfield, Erica D. Frankenberg, and Chungmei Lee, from “The Resurgence of School Segregation,” Educational Leadership (December 2002/January 2003)
NO: Juan Williams, from “The Ruling That Changed America,” American School Board Journal (April 2004)
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.
ISSUE 7. Have Public Schools Adequately Accommodated Religion?
YES: Edd Doerr, from “Religion and Public Education,” Phi Delta Kappan (November 1998)
NO: Warren A. Nord, from “The Relevance of Religion to the Curriculum,” The School Administrator (January 1999)
Edd Doerr, executive director of Americans for Religious Liberty, asserts that a fair balance between free exercise rights and theobligation 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 thecurriculum must be found for religion.
ISSUE 8. Can Federal Initiatives Rescue Failing Schools?
YES: Andrew Rotherham, from “A New Partnership,” Education Next (Spring 2002)
NO: Peter Schrag, from “Bush’s Education Fraud,” The American Prospect (February 2004)
Education policy expert Andrew Rotherham argues that new federally imposed accountability standards will enhance opportunity and overhaulfailing schools. Education writer-editor Peter Schrag finds the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind act to be confusing, underfunded, and ultimately self-defeating.
ISSUE 9. Do High-Stakes Assessments Improve Learning?
YES: Nina Hurwitz and Sol Hurwitz, from “Tests That Count,” American School Board Journal (January 2000)
NO: Ken Jones, from “A Balanced School Accountability Model: An Alternative to High-Stakes Testing,” Phi Delta Kappan (April 2004)
High school teacher Nina Hurwitz and education consultant Sol Hurwitz assemble evidence from states that are leading the movement to sethigh 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.
ISSUE 10. Should "Public Schooling" Be Redefined? YES: Frederick M. Hess, from “What Is a ‘Public School’? Principles for A New Century,” Phi Delta Kappan (February 2004) NO: Linda Nathan et al., from “A Response to Frederick Hess,” Phi Delta Kappan (February 2004)
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.
PART 3. Current Specific Issues
ISSUE 11. Has the Supreme Court Reconfigured American Education?
YES: Charles L. Glenn, from “Fanatical Secularism,” Education Next (Winter 2003)
NO: Paul E. Peterson, from “Victory for Vouchers?” Commentary (September 2002)
Professor of education Charles L. Glenn argues that the Supreme Court’s decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris is an immediateantidote 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 inreligious schools will postpone any lasting effects.
ISSUE 12. Can Charter Schools Revitalize Public Education?
YES: Chester E. Finn, Jr., Bruno V. Manno, and Gregg Vanourek, from “The Radicalization of School Reform,” Society (May/June 2001)
NO: Marc F. Bernstein, from “Why I’m Wary of Charter Schools,” The School Administrator (August 1999)
Former assistant secretaries of education Chester E. Finn, Jr., and Bruno V. Manno, along with Gregg Vanourek, vice president of the CharterSchool Division of the K12 education program, provide an update on the charter school movement, which, they contend, is reinventing publiceducation. School superintendent Marc F. Bernstein sees increasing racial and social class segregation, church-state issues, and financial harm asoutgrowths of the charter school movement.
ISSUE 13. Is Home Schooling a Danger to American Society? YES: Michael W. Apple, from “The Cultural Politics of Home Schooling,” Peabody Journal of Education (vol. 75, nos. 1 & 2, 2000) NO: Brian D. Ray, from “Home Schooling for Individuals’ Gain and Soceity’s Common Good,” Peabody Journal of Education (vol. 75, nos. 1 & 2, 2000)
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.
ISSUE 14. Is Full Inclusion of Disabled Students Desirable?
YES: Richard A. Villa and Jacqueline S. Thousand, from “Making Inclusive Education Work,” Educational Leadership (October 2003)
NO: Karen Agne, from “The Dismantling of the Great American Public School,” Educational Horizons (Spring 1998)
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 mostlynegative effects and contributes to the exodus from public schools.
ISSUE 15. Is Size Crucial to School Improvement?
YES: Patricia A. Wasley, from “Small Classes, Small Schools: The Time Is Now,” Educational Leadership (February 2002)
NO: Kirk A. Johnson, from “The Downside to Small Class Policies,” Educational Leadership (February 2002)
Education dean Patricia A. Wasley contends that schools and classrooms must be small if they are to be places where students’ personal andlearning 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.
ISSUE 16. Should Bilingual Education Programs Be Abandoned?
YES: Rosalie Pedalino Porter, from “The Politics of Bilingual Education,” Society (September/October 1997)
NO: Richard Rothstein, from “Bilingual Education: The Controversy,” Phi Delta Kappan (May 1998)
Rosalie Pedalino Porter, director of the Research in English Acquisition and Development Institute, offers a close examination of the majorresearch 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.
ISSUE 17. Does School Violence Warrant a Zero-Tolerance Policy?
YES: Albert Shanker, from “Restoring the Connection Between Behavior and Consequences,” Vital Speeches of the Day (May 15, 1995)
NO: Alfie Kohn, from “Safety From the Inside Out: Rethinking Traditional Approaches,” Educational Horizons (Fall 2004)
Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), advocates a “get tough” policy for dealing with violent anddisruptive 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.
ISSUE 18. Should Homework Be Abolished?
YES: Etta Kralovec and John Buell, from “End Homework Now” Educational Leadership (April 2001)
NO: David Skinner, from “The Homework Wars,” The Public Interest (Winter 2004)
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.
ISSUE 19. Do Computer Negatively Affect Student Growth? YES: Lowell Monke, from “The Human Touch,” Education Next (Fall 2004) NO: Frederick M. Hess, from “Technical Difficulties,” Education Next (Fall 2004)
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.
ISSUE 20. Can Merit Pay Accelerate School Improvement?
YES: Steven Malanga, from “Why Merit Pay Will Improve Teaching,” City Journal (Summer 2001)
NO: Al Ramirez, from “How Merit Pay Undermines Education,” Educational Leadership (February 2001)
Steven Malanga, a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, draws on examples from the corporate world and from public school systems inCincinnati, 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 ofteachers.
ISSUE 21. Should Alternative Teacher Training Be Encouraged?
YES: Robert Holland, from “How to Build a Better Teacher,” Policy Review (April & May 2001)
NO: Linda Darling-Hammond, from “How Teacher Education Matters,” Journal of Teacher Education (May/June 2000)
Public policy researcher Robert Holland argues that current certification programs are inadequate, especially given the growing shortage ofteachers. Educational professor Linda Darling-Hammond offers evidence of failure among alternative programs and responds to criticism of standardprofessional preparation.