Can reformers control their own reforms? In a review of Paul Peterson’s Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning, Dan Willingham sees reasons for concern about the reforms du jour.
Peterson writes about Horace Mann, John Dewey, Martin Luther King Jr., Al Shanker, William Bennett, James Coleman and Julie Young of Florida Virtual School. “Centralization became the almost inevitable byproduct of school reform, simply because reformers sought maximum power to carry their desires into effect,” Peterson writes.
Peterson’s core argument–that reformers seek greater centralization of control, then lose control of the intended reform–seems especially pertinent to thinking about the impact of the Common Core standards.
Jay P. Greene has emphasized this point. He argues that however much one might like the standards now, “the good guys” will inevitably lose control of them. From Peterson’s read of history, it would seem that Greene is dead on.
. . . Long before the Common Core standards became the latest Big Idea, I would chuckle when I heard policy observers avow (with a straight face) “Oh, I’m for national standards. [pause] As long as they are good.”
Peterson’s book won’t have the impact it deserves because of his “conservative” reputation, Willingham predicts.