Chapter 12. EDUCATION POLICY IN THE UNITED STATES: RETROSPECTVIVE AND PROSPECTIVE. Focus Questions. How has education in the United States changed through history? How do the policy proposals of today relate to those of the past? Why is the policy environment today so turbulent?
EDUCATION POLICY IN THE UNITED STATES:
RETROSPECTVIVE AND PROSPECTIVE
People who analyze policy using the competing values framework argue that because only two or three values can be dominant at any given time, proponent of particular values compete with each other to move their preferred values into the top positions.
Kirp argues that one way to compare and contrast the school systems of different nations is to examine the extent to which their organization reflects five types of institutions: (1) bureaucracy (2) legalization, (3) professionalization, (4) politics, and (5) the market.
He suggests that few systems are purely of one form, but that most incorporate elements of all five. However, one or two will be dominant, setting the tone of the overall organization and shaping its policy direction.
Although he uses this framework to compare the school systems of different countries, it can also be used to compare the same system to itself across historical periods.
Politics can also be the fundamental structural principle of an education system. In political situations, people build power in order to advance their own interests or values.
Political game playing usually requires negotiating to reach compromises and is frequently based on exchanging favors. Clearly, all organizations without exception include some political elements; but politics is more pronounced in some than in others.
The legislative branch of democratic government is one of the most political of institutions, and in many counties legislatures make a high percentage of the education policy decisions. School systems vary in the extent to which policy making is politicized.
Comparative education specialist theorize that the school systems of the nations around the world are "converging"-becoming more like each other in structure, curriculum, and goals. The process is not new. As early as the eighteenth century, Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Condorcet, a French leader, corresponded about the type of schools necessary to promote democratic government; the ideas of both men were later reflected in the public schools of each nation.
Cross-national influence continued in the nineteenth century. To mention just one example, under the Meiji Restoration, Japanese leaders visited schools in Europe and North America, gathering information to use in establishing their own school system as part of a broader modernization effort.
The Rise of the Common School, 1831-1900
Overview. By the early 1830s, the Young Republic was no longer young, and the United States was changing rapidly. The major cause of the widespread transformations of this period was industrialization.
Factories sprang up throughout the northeast, and young men and women who had grown up on farms flocked to cities to work in them. They were not the only ones who came; immigrants from Europe, primarily Ireland and Germany, joined them.
Many of these were Roman Catholic, much to the dismay of the overwhelmingly Protestant population.
In his view, the current school system was pitifully inadequate, "each [school] being governed by its own habits, traditions, and local customs" .
The result was an uncoordinated educational hodgepodge, destined to remain ignorant and backward unless transformed. Mann’s solutions was the Common School, which would provide an elementary education for all white children of both sexes of every ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic group.
He and his fellow reformers developed a defiled agenda for transforming education in the United States into a highly coordinated system; Figure 12.1 lists the individual planks of that platform.
Nevertheless, by 1860 the Common School was virtually universal in the North; in the south it took considerably longer to establish, but a racially segregated version of common schooling prevailed by the end of the nineteenth century.
Figure 12.2 Policy mechanisms in support of the differentiated curriculum.
As for children with handicaps, they were originally excluded, shunted off into special schools or deprived of education altogether.
After World War II, these incongruities were experienced as increasingly unacceptable and, one by one, they were either reduced or abolished. Such changes did not occur without a struggle, however, and the federal government to play an increasingly important role in enforcing the new policies designed to enhance equal educational opportunity.
The result was school systems that were increasingly segregated by class and in which a new form of racial segregation continued.
By the end of the period, dissatisfaction with public education was mounting, suggesting that another period of reform might be on the horizon.
Figure 12.3 Reforms to complete, restore, or update the Common School
Figure 12.4 Reforms to professionalize teaching
Prediction 3: Numerous elements of the updated and completed Common School will be widely accepted, but this paradigm will not ultimately dominate.