Q+A: Mike Rose on America’s public schools

"The question for me is how we might develop a critique appropriate to public education. How to craft an approach and language that is critical without being reductive, that honors the best in our schools and draws from it broader lessons about ability, learning and opportunity, that scrutinizes public institutions while affirming them."

From assassinations that go to the heart of government and power grabs by narco-despots we turn — for what it’s worth — to the minutiae of modern American life. Namely, schools.

As both Republicans and Democrats barrel down the warpath to privatize the nation’s sprawling but remarkably inequitable public education system, the Obama Administration is preparing to dole out billions of dollars to states who embrace experimentation in their schools. Meanwhile, post-secondary education is becoming increasingly inaccessible as was underscored by student upheaval in California when the state proposed drastic tuition increases. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act is being appraised for its successes or lack thereof and the burgeoning home schooling movement as well as the big tent that is the charter school movement outlines that what is really at stake is our very conception of American democracy.

To make some sense of recent developments I exchanged emails with Dr. Mike Rose. A professor at the University of California at Los Angeles and a former teacher, he is the author of a number of books with the most recent being Why School?: Reclaiming Education for All of Us. Slim but poignant, I highly recommend it.

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