Address at Wake Forest University: “Revolution that is Overdue”

Al Shanker states that the last three years since the “Nation at Risk Report” was published have seen education reform legislation passed in many states. He notes that businesses threatened to leave states if education did not improve. Yet, Shanker believes that this reform has not been successful. He finds it ironic that businesses called similar measures 'over-regulation' when they applied to industry but legislators call it reform in education. Shanker notes that the public still has a negative view of public education and that vouchers and tuition tax credits are not a good solution. He argues that if these were given out, private schools would only take students they want, and public schools would then become the place for rejects. Rather, he thinks that public schools should remain the primary vehicle for educating the public. Not all reform has been bad, he notes. He agrees with the need for rigorous teacher examinations and for curricula to include core requirements. Yet, with the coming teacher shortage, he thinks these reforms are not enough and that what is needed instead is a radical restructuring of school as we know it. He argues that teachers should be treated as professionals: the field should have a high standard of entry, there should be boards to certify specialists, successful senior teachers should manage the schools, and teachers should be trusted and empowered to make their own decisions. Next, the model of children sitting in one seat all day listening to one person all day should be overhauled. It is ineffective and undesirable to both teachers and students. Different models include more one on one teaching with paraprofessionals, peer tutors, technology, and student teaching interns and residents helping. While Shanker argues for a permanent career corps of teachers, he also suggests models whereby a company like IBM would encourage college graduates to teach math and science for 4-5 years in exchange for assistance in paying off student loans, and for higher entry into IBM once the teaching is completed. Teaching would be seen as a major service to the country. Shanker reasserts that the reforms tried so far have not worked. During a question and answer session, Shanker notes that nothing done in the school will be worthwhile unless parents give kids a good moral foundation to begin with. He further insists he is not blaming any one group for the state of affairs.

Winston-Salem, NC
56 pages
Attachment(click to download)
64.14.pdf64.14.pdf2.19 MB