Why do U.S. voters, with and without children, tax themselves to provide public schools and compel children and youth to attend for a decade or more?
Although reasons have changed over time, Americans consistently wanted schools to prepare students for the demands of being a participating citizen in the community, entering the workplace with skills and knowledge, and exhibiting the character traits that family and neighbors value highly. Sure, there are other goals that have risen and fallen in ranking but these three sum up public aspirations over the past two centuries of schooling. Preparation for the workplace–and its proxy doing well on standardized tests here and abroad–has dominated public debate as the highest priority for schooling (next year is the 40th anniversary of A Nation at Risk report).
What is often overlooked in debates over goals is that it is the classroom teacher who has the job of translating…
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