Wednesday, August 3, 2016

'New Economy,' Old Injustices - And School Reform

'New Economy,' Old Injustices - And School Reform:

‘New Economy,’ Old Injustices - And School Reform

Toni Wagner sees an economy in shambles and calls for innovators. Yong Zhao sees a nation at risk and calls for entrepreneurs. Tom Van der Ark sees competition and complexity and calls for project based learning.
I nod my head. I endorse the pedagogy.
School reformers often champion progressive teaching practice as the path for student to success in the “new economy” - which is also called the “innovation economy,” the “knowledge economy,” the “information economy,” the “idea-based economy,” the “21st century economy.”
The reformers tell us that the world is globalized, fast and competitive; information is at our fingertips; robots and foreign labor do what Americans once did - and if we’re going to compete to win, our schools must prepare children for the expanding high-skill sectors of the new economy.
But this “new economy” is troubled by very old injustices. Why is there so little acknowledgement of this? We don’t just need graduates who will succeed in today’s economy. We need graduates who will make it more fair.
Last year I met with a student, David, and his mom. David’s a tough guy, but this morning his eyes were glassy - because even a tough guy can tear-up when his mom cries. She says it is difficult to find time to spend with him. Working afternoons and evenings now in a low pay service sector of the healthcare industry, her schedule also makes it hard to arrange time to meet with us at school. Week to week, her manager keeps her guessing about her shifts.
This working-poor family is part of the “new economy.” And so are the homeless kids and their moms. This is an economy, says Richard Kirsch, “where even workers with a good education are barely making it and most Americans don’t have a prayer of living the American Dream.”
That our economy crushes so many people is a reality too often left out of the school reform conversation. Rather, it’s not left out, it’s acknowledged complacently, taken for granted: the low-wage fate and unfair odds that you try to help a few kids beat.
It’s certainly exciting to envision our graduates joining the ranks of the high-skill labor force. But it’s sobering to be told that if a student like David doesn’t get to college and persist he just won’t make it. He’ll struggle to find work, or he’ll ending up in low-pay job like his mom. As Tony Wagner puts it in The Global Achievement Gap, “In order to earn a decent wage in today’s economy, most students will need at least some postsecondary education.”

Yes, we want our graduates to earn a decent wage, to live with decency. The reformers call for a paradigm shift in schools. We must graduate critical-thinking entrepreneurs - and masses of them. The reformers believe that if schools can 'New Economy,' Old Injustices - And School Reform:

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