Electronic Journal for Inclusive Education


Throughout the United States, it is almost impossible not to hear the din of criticism of our educational system. It is supposedly a failure. It does not prepare our children for the rigors of international competition. It is too responsive to "minority" interests and not responsive to "our" common culture. It is inefficient and wasteful. And it has been captured by " producer" (teacher) not "consumer" (parents and the business community) interests.

A number of quite contradictory proposals to "fix" the schools are currently enjoying their place in the limelight. The first is organized around a vision of the weak state. Schools and teachers will become more efficient and effective, we are told, if we turn them over to the market. Voucher and choice plans will solve deep seated educational problems. The second set of proposals is centered around a vision of the strong state. Tighter control will solve our problems. Establishing national curricula and national testing is the answer here.

Most of the impetus for both of these sets of proposals comes from various fractions of the conservative alliance now taking center stage in education and in social policy in general. For the former--neo-liberal-- part of this alliance, what is public is necessarily bad and inefficient and what is private is necessarily good and efficient. For the latter--neo-conservative--part of the conservative alliance, public can be good; but, only when there is tight control over curriculum and teaching and only when what is taught and how it is taught is aimed at what " we all know" is proper knowledge and proper teaching skills.