Sunday, May 29, 2011

On Rhetorical Battleground, 'Reform' Proves Potent Weapon

Citation: Cavanagh, S. (2011). On Rhetorical Battleground, 'Reform' Proves Potent Weapon. Education Week, 30, 1-25.

Summary: This article specifically focuses on the rhetoric that we are using in education around 4 key words: reform, status quo, putting children first, educational bureaucracy. This examines the use of these words from both Republicans and Democrats, as well as from a wide range of people within education. It examines how this particular rhetoric used in education today is dangerous because it is very divisive. By labeling a status quo or something as progressive, it puts people into two categories: those who favor reform and those who don't. The article continues to focus on how the buzzwords in education today are then thrown around without any real consensus on what the words could mean. There is also some discussion of labeling something as the status quo being dangerous, because as people examine issues in education, they feel that they are unable to look at a model that already exists. There might be portions of the status quo that need to be considered keeping to improve the education system. The article continues to show how there is a political motive also behind separating people into an us and them category. For example, they reference Michelle Rhee (DC Schools) quite a bit. When she said, "The defenders of the status quo are very strong, they're very organized, they're very strategic," this is an example of a vague 'them' that is being alluded to.

Reflection: I really liked that the article focused specifically on this issue as a bipartisan issue. There are always trends in education, and it highlights how these trends are often started with buzz words and outsiders (non-educators) using them. I'm hoping to use sections of this as I plan what I hope to say to parents of new parents coming into our school. A 2008 study from Education Week showed that 60% parents are unclear on what a charter school is. 37% said that they thought it was a private school or a religious school. As I am beginning my research, I think it's going to be important to think about the rhetoric I use with parents. I need to be careful to speak in specifics and explain the more vague words without assuming that we are all working from the same definitions (project-based learning, charter school, etc.)


"Mr. Whitehurst, a senior fellow and the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, served as the director of the Institute of Educations Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education, during the second Bush administration. He believes some of today's policies dubbed "reforms" may have merit, though he considers the research supporting them weak, compared with the evidence supporting other approaches, such as improving curriculum. He says that assigning labels, particularly those such as "status quo," to policies comes at a cost. "That kind of labeling exercise hardens positions and makes people defensive. We need to be able to consider anything out there, including what is considered the status quo." page 2

"The rhetoric of education today tends to divide the world in two; between those who favor "reform" and those who don't." - page 1

In the quotes sections showing the rhetoric:
"Democrats have shown their true priorities, jumping at the chance to discard educations reform to salvage an unpopular bailout for the education establishment." Rep. Kline

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