A major debate about education is underway in Rhode Island. The debate is bigger than just a debate about how to fix education; the debate is about the fundamental importance of education.
One side in this great debate (see Julia Steiny or Valerie Forti for examples) begins from the premise that the best way to help people achieve their potential is to provide them with an education. The other side considers this position to be too quaint for the modern world, believing that impersonal societal forces beyond the control of the individual will primarily determine what individuals can achieve. In this view, education is just a bit of window dressing that correlates accidentally to socio-economic status.
For those skeptical that this second view exists in such stark form, I refer you to Peniel Joseph‘s Washington Post review of Juan Williams’ new book, Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America — and What We Can Do About It (h/t Power Line)…
Unlike The Covenant With Black America, a bestselling anthology with concrete proposals for community empowerment, Enough concludes with a flurry of righteous condescension, preaching that youngsters can best avoid poverty by finishing high school, getting a job and postponing marriage and child-bearing until at least 21.Dr. Joseph’s belief that the relationship between education and achievement is overstated has been expressed locally by the Rhode Island union establishment in their education reform document, The Shape of the Starting Line. Starting Line eschews any serious discussion of education reforms — like public school choice or charter schools — that could be implemented in relatively short order in favor of advocating for large-scale social spending in non-educational areas, in a rejection of the idea that education reform should focus on education.