[Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of personal reflections on the current state of education reform and contemporary conservatism by Andy Smarick, a Bernard Lee Schwartz senior policy fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The previous posts in this series can be seen here, here, here, here, and here.]
Andy’s odyssey: Part six
The greatest friction between contemporary education reform and conservatism is the former’s obsession with “new” and the latter’s deep skepticism of it.
This conflict has its roots in the very different worldviews of progressives and conservatives. Those on the political right generally seek to preserve, believing that longstanding practices, policies, and institutions possess the wisdom of ages. They have evolved and grown robust. In Yuval Levin’s words, they “developed through years of trial and error and adapted to their circumstances.” They possess stores of social capital that facilitate the healthy functioning of society.
Progressives generally seek to dramatically change, aspiring to uproot society’s injustices and inefficiencies, possessing great faith in our ability to create something new and better from scratch. This frame of mind among America’s political left is clear and consistent.
Thomas Paine famously wrote in Common Sense of “our power to begin the world over again.” The FDR museum celebrates how the former president “fundamentally changed the role of the federal government in the...