In a Washington Post opinion piece last year about their book, the coauthors also wrote that private schools too often use their autonomy from state regulations to teach in such a way that may please parents but isn’t effective for learning. In the piece, the Lubienskis wrote:So it's official.
For example, private school students are more likely than their public school counterparts to sit in rows, complete math worksheets and believe that mathematics is 'mostly memorizing facts'—a narrow view that captures neither the breadth of the discipline nor the reasoning that is central to it. In contrast, public schools have moved beyond traditional, repetitive exercises, and more often ask students to solve complex, real-world problems and to learn geometry, data analysis, and early algebra ideas, in addition to basic arithmetic.
If you want your children learning inside a teacher-centered classroom, you have to a) make enough money to pay for private or parochial school; b) live in an area that has a decent private or parochial school or two; c) hope your kids get in.
Can you spell 'hegemony,' part 2
The private/parochial school option may not be long for this world.
For one thing, the National Association of Independent Schools seems to come down on the side of progressive education, no surprise given that many private schools were founded as progressive alternatives to public school in the first place, at least here in New York:
The 70-odd private schools in or near Manhattan are a varied lot, but with few exceptions they share one notable quality: age. They have the mystique of wood-paneled privilege that is hard to manufacture anew and that continues to radiate the glamour that makes even pop divas like Madonna aspire to Scottish castles and English nannies. Many of these schools are housed in fine, old Upper East Side buildings or ivy-covered campuses; students often wear uniforms, including blazers or kilts; they honor traditions like teas and Founder's Days; they may even call teachers "Sir." History has given each of these institutions a unique character. Towne and Allen-Stevenson are small, traditional schools with a neighborhood tone; Little Red Schoolhouse and Trevor Day have a staunchly 1920s left-wing feel; Grace Church, Marymount, and Sacred Heart have proud religious affiliations.And then there are the forces of hegemony, which are pervasive and powerful, and which explain why every reform is the same non-reform all over again, for the most part. The hegemon never quite wins, so the battle never (quite) ends.
But it is what Victoria Goldman, co-author of The Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools, calls the Baby Ivies that are the million-dollar prize of this Survivor game. These are the crème de la crème, the Harvard, Yale, and Princeton of the K-12 set. Decades ago, these schools could easily be divided into two broad categories. The coed, progressive schools—Dalton, Fieldston, Friends Seminary, Horace Mann, Riverdale, and St. Ann's—appealed to New York's artistic and intellectual elite. The unisex traditional schools—Buckley, Collegiate, St. Bernard's, and Trinity (now coed) for boys or Brearley, Chapin, Nightingale-Bamford, and Spence for girls—educated the children of the Protestant establishment, at least until adolescence, when many of the boys went on to board at Groton and Choate. (St. Bernard's and Buckley still only go up to ninth grade.) These days, all the schools pride themselves on a progressive, multicultural curriculum that counts as today's conventional wisdom; you would be just as likely to find a first-grade "interdisciplinary project" on Eskimos at Collegiate as at Dalton and a tenth-grade African-American literature course at Spence as at Fieldston. All of them "respect different learning styles." Yet despite the trendy veneer, the curricula remain fairly rigorous, and the schools still turn out graduates who know the difference between a Van Gogh and a Vermeer, speak French, and play decent tennis.
Survivor: The Manhattan Kindergarten by Kay Hymowitz
That's one theory.
Hirsch has a different take on the one hundred years' war:
The history of American education since the 1930s has been the stubborn persistence of illusion in the face of reality. Illusion has not been defeated. But since reality cannot be defeated, either, and since it determines what actually happens in the world, the result has been educational decline.And this:
In a conflict between ideology and reality, reality always trumps.I think that's true.
"Reality always trumps" explains why our schools grind on and on, innovating and disrupting, disrupting and innovating, adopting open classrooms, flipped classrooms, station classrooms--any permutation they can dream up--but nothing ever sticks, and the conflict never ends.