<< The Body Politic

Rick Hess at Remapping Debate

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Diana Jean Schemo at Remapping Debate interviews Rick Hess about our new teacher survey and why charter schools need civic education:

In an interview, Frederick M. Hess, American Enterprise’s policy expert on schools and an author of the report, said he had been decrying the inattention to civics for the last 10 years. But over that time, education advocates — himself included — were more consistently attacking public schools for deficiencies in math and reading, shifting the “center of gravity” in policy discussions toward measuring performance on a narrow set of measures. “We saw this wholesale shift in focus toward numeracy and literacy that was in one sense laudable and appropriate, but rather than wrestle with the implications of that, we tended to turn a blind eye to them,” Hess said.

The current mantra in advocacy circles, that students should emerge “college and career ready,” redefines education as a “private good: are we preparing this student to go to college or get a job?” Hess said. As a consequence, advocates are largely divorcing education from its historic role of instructing young people for citizenship.

“We are really embracing an incredibly impoverished notion of education,” Hess said.

To press its case, American Enterprise hoped to persuade a handful of “trend setter” charter schools to embrace citizenship education. Doesn’t that strategy effectively bypass the 97 percent of public school students who don’t attend charter schools? Hess said that in this case, he was skeptical of attempting grand changes. “Actually trying to move systems, with their competing factions and conflicting demands, is an incredibly muddy, incremental process,” Hess said. Charters, he argued, have the agility to “modify their cultures” quickly.

Read the whole thing.