While debates over purposes and programs in education continue unabated, a conservationist perspective can help citizens to be more deliberate about what to preserve and what to change in their schools. It will not be easy. The work of the educational conservationist, like that of the defender of wild animals, is a challenging one. It takes energy and smarts and political savvy to preserve Mongolian gazelles or good schools.
David Tyack, “The Conservationist ethic in Education.”
Juggling the varied democratic, meritocratic, and practical purposes embedded in high schools along with intense parental aspirations for their children — all within the framework of the comprehensive high school — has produced severe strains among reformers and confusion among parents, especially since World War II. Writers have often reduced these conflicting purposes to labels of “conservative” and “progressive.” While what happens in schools is far more complex and nuanced than these labels allow, these words appeared constantly in public discussions of school reform among policy makers, media, and elected officials.
Some deep background from two of my favorite historians of education. Note that the “Multiple Pathways” reform mentioned in part 3 of Cuban’s post is not the same as the Dual Pathways proposal under consideration in the Madison Metropolitan School District, but shares some inspirations and characteristics.
For more on Multiple Pathways see this from EdSource and here from NCEP, The Multiple Perspectives on Multiple Pathways: Preparing California’s Youth for College, Career, and Civic Responsibility series, introduction and overview by Jeannie Oakes and Marisa Saunders (people who don’t like Jeannie Oaks because of her detracking work should still check this out you might be surprised at points of agreements). Other papers in the series are linked here and here and here and in keeping with the deep background theme ” Reforming the 19th Century High School: “Weak” and “Strong” Approaches to Multiple Pathways,” by W. Norton Grubb.
Pathways seem to be the word of the moment. I found some other “Pathway” papers at the Association for Career and Technical Education site (it isn’t clear how many of these fit under the Multiple Pathways umbrella). These, and many of the other things I read in preparing this post remind me that — at least rhetorically — the Dual Pathways proposal is about preparing all students for college. While that may be a noble goal and “life long education” is a must, I think this bias toward college is unrealistic and shortchanges some very capable students whose talents and inclinations lead them down other “pathways” (the Multiple Pathways approach addresses the needs of these students).
Thomas J. Mertz