“The Dance of Ideology” (Charles Payne)

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

A sociologist from the University of Chicago, Charles Payne has taught and worked in urban schools for decades. Based upon his work in Chicago schools and many experiences in urban districts, Payne authored So Much Reform, So Little Change (2008). In the following excerpt from that book, Payne distills the basic assumptions that drive school reformers (including educators) from both the political left and right. He believes that the history of urban school reform and the current context calls for rethinking both sets of ideas in trying to improve big city schools.

…For progressives, [their] ideas include the following Holy Postulates:

  1. Thou Shalt Never Criticize the Poor. It is okay to imply that the poor have agency but agency only to do good. If the poor do anything that’s counterproductive, it is only because of the inexorable weight of oppression, which leaves them no choice. We do not talk about…

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