Sunday, December 7, 2008

David Brooks' Reform School

For someone with national credentials, columnist David Brooks’ education policy naivety is staggering.

In a recent column Mr. Brooks started out by saying, “As in many other areas, the biggest education debates are happening within the Democratic Party. On the one hand, there are the reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, who support merit pay for good teachers, charter schools and tough accountability standards. On the other hand, there are the teachers’ unions and the members of the Ed School establishment, who emphasize greater funding, smaller class sizes and superficial reforms.”

And then it just bogged down into repeating the cliched good vs. evil, educational equivalent of those-people-hate-our-freedom, you’re either with us or against us, “I’m the decider” arguments with all the authenticity of a good round of pro-wrestling, feather boa notwithstanding.

Which contradiction is my favorite? It’s so hard to decide from the generous 31 flavors offered up by Mr. Brooks. The first one, of course, is that merit pay for teachers is so obviously good, but the “greater funding” that might actually serve as the revenue stream for that merit pay is bad.

Charter schools: good. The smaller class sizes found in virtually every charter school in the country: bad.

Secure and undisclosed “tough accountability standards” are good. “Superficial reforms” like tougher standards to get into our teaching profession are just the kind of accountability that students can clearly do without.

Yes Mr. Brooks, there are some things that educational funding can’t buy, but luckily for those of us rolling up our sleeves working to make public schools better, there’s common sense.