Clive Crook, having just returned from the Aspen Ideas Festival (can the event be as glorious as its name implies?), writes in National Journal that the nation's best and brightest thinkers managed to agree on two things: "(a) better education is the answer to all our problems, and (b) improving education is extremely difficult to do (see how hard we tried?)." Crook disagrees. He notes that perhaps the most successful way yet discovered to improve the quality of schools--instituting competition among them--has been sedulously avoided by many people. Even in the United States, where competition is king in most every aspect of society, experimentation with school competition has, in Crook's view, been much too timid. Of course he's right, to a point. But just as the Aspen attendees held aloft high-quality education as a panacea for the world's social ills (it is not), Crook genuflects at competition's altar, wrongly assuming that market forces, positive and worthy as they've been in many realms, can be applied with similar success in every other sector. Competition is part of a complicated solution to developing high-quality education, (Sorry, Clive, but there's nothing "simple" about reforming education.) and subsequently addressing larger, societal issues. Oh, and we're waiting for our invitation to next year's Aspen gathering.
"The Lure of Education," by Clive Crook, National Journal, July 18, 2006