May 16, 2007
As if Messrs. Coombs and Shaffer (see above) didn't fill our weekly quota of musings from the Ivory Tower, ex-Harvard Ed School dean Ellen Condliffe Lagemann took to the pages of Education Week to voice her dissatisfaction with the rhetoric surrounding our K-12 system. Mostly, she's upset about those nasty, ominous titles (Rising Above the Gathering Storm, etc.) that we give to education reports. "I think the true story is not that our schools have failed us. It is rather that we, as a society, have failed our schools," she writes. Ah, yes. The old college paper switcheroo: take an obviously true statement, and defend its opposite. So how does Lagemann think we've failed our schools? We've "asked them to do impossible things," she writes. But please don't misunderstand her; in the next paragraph Lagemann writes that, even if society asks schools to do impossible things, that impossibility doesn't "justify school failure." So schools should achieve the impossible? And so it goes until its concluding paragraph, which says 1) Lagemann has no solutions, 2) the first step is recognizing we have a problem, 3) we failed schools, not the other way around, and 4) we need more social imagination. Right.
"Public Rhetoric, Public Responsibility, and The Public Schools," by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, Education Week, May 14, 2007