Sunday, June 20, 2010

On experts

We have vested too much authority in national officials who are really smart, but who are really distant. We should be leaving more power with local officials, who may not be as expert, but who have the advantage of being there on the ground.

David Brooks gets paid by the New York Times to spew hooey that makes the power elite feel good about themselves. I read him to get a sense of what powerful people who think they think (and who unconsciously sniff a lot) think.

He's about as bright as Arne Duncan, and just as smug. Both are capable of a lot of damage. Still, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Brooks was talking about the clean-up efforts in the Gulf. He can't quite get himself to admit that maybe locals have more intelligence than the shrimp they once seined, but he does get that local knowledge matters.

I'd take it one step further--if local knowledge makes for more effective action, then the locals are, indeed, experts.

But I'm prejudiced--I don't think national officials are necessarily really smart, no matter what sheeps were skinned.

If you look beneath the shiny sheen of school reform, you will see plumes of money flowing from huge private foundations through a ruptured public trust, money used by national experts to control what happens in your child's classroom.

David Brooks pushed for Arne Duncan's coronation as the education czar. If Mr. Brooks believes public education matters--and I am not convinced he does--he may wake up and see the toxic plume of money distorting the heart of public discourse, the heart of a functioning citizenry.

Forrest Gump shot from here.


Anonymous said...

Have you seen this yet Sir:

I am thinking very much that you have but it makes interesting thinking to those of us busy with the problems teaching our young friends makes us mostly consider.

Good wishes to you.
Dante Santos.

John Spencer said...

I quit reading the Times because of their education garbage. Even the Washington Post who "gets it right" (progressive reform) chooses "experts" who were once in favor of NCLB (Diane Ravitch) and now act as if these anti-NCLB ideas are so revolutionary (it's what teachers have been saying for years.)

If you want a decent view on education reform, the best place to go is a high school newspaper. Sometimes brash and bratty, just like the Times, but at least a little less smug.

Student newspapers often bring up points adults miss: the power of the arts, the need for practical skills, the desire for more freedom, the mixed reality of good and bad teachers, the importance of sports and yet the way athletes recieve a double-standard. School newspapers are often more nuanced, more realistic and more multi-sided than anything "respectable."

Okay Doyle, I'll step off my soapbox now. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

doyle said...

Dear Dante,

Not yet but I will soon. I saw it recommended by Clay Burrell.

Dear John,

Thanks for the words.

I was reading your book again today, as I do frequently. I need to post a review soon. It belongs on every teacher's shelf.

John Spencer said...

I think of your blog when I hear Iron and Wine's "Resurrection Fern." (He's a bit of a naturalist in his song writing)