Have you noticed that people increasingly talk about the purpose of education as a driver of the economy and less a delivery system for knowledge and learning? Apparently our nation’s governors are at least in part to blame for this shift. According to a recent study published by the International Journal on Education Policy and Leadership, governors seldom discuss the topic of education independent of economic growth.
Education Week’s Sean Cavanagh highlights Dick M. Carpenter and Haning Hughes’ analysis of this trend and its effects on policy:
Because governors create policies based on how they define the purpose of education, Carpenter and Hughes contend. The emphasis that governors place on ‘economic efficiency’ is likely to feed states’ overall interest in standards, assessment, and accountability, the authors say.
Even as governors voice concern over college- and career-readiness and high dropout rates in high school and higher education, they continue to champion reforms that have had only minimal impact. Perhaps if governors shifted their educational rhetoric to emphasize the importance of building a knowledgeable and engaged citizenry, their policies would align to encourage education rooted in quality content, with positive impact in the classroom.
Gubernatorial rhetoric rings strikingly similar to that of the skills-centric movement; both find basis in economic rationales for reform. And both have resulted in little to no improvement in the state of our education system, as testified by our students’ test scores. This is because education in skills, without basis in knowledge, leads to minimal learning.
Far too often, those outside of education take it upon themselves to define it. But it is up to the people within education—educators and advocates alike—who understand and live its inner-workings, to call for a better definition.