Education Letter to the Editor

‘Reform Model’ Is About Money, Not Learning

April 05, 2011 1 min read

To the Editor:

You recently wrote about a topic that I have been thinking about for quite some time: What do you call the people who oppose the “reform” movement (“On Rhetorical Battleground, ‘Reform’ Proves Potent Weapon,” March 2, 2011)?

After much consideration, I think the best term is the “anti-reform” movement. I say this because the reform movement is not about education and teaching children; it is about breaking teachers’ unions and privatizing education. In fact, the term “reform movement” is a complete misnomer—it is better to say something like the “business agenda” or the “business model.” This movement is not about altruism; it is about money.

The defining characteristic of the reform movement is failure. The idea of breaking up big schools into smaller schools, cheered on by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been a major failure.

Merit pay, standardized tests, and charter schools all get an F. With respect to charter schools, if they have shown any success at all, it is because they have chosen the good students, kicked out the bad, and worked their teachers to the bone. Most of them cannot outperform public schools.

The “anti-reform” movement, on the other hand, believes that education is first and foremost about getting students to think. Anti-reformers believe that not much has changed in education since the time of Socrates walking around ancient Athens and questioning young men about the important issues of the day. The anti-reform movement understands well that children think best when class sizes are small and believes that, over time, smaller class sizes will pay dividends to society and cover the costs of additional teacher salaries.

To put all of this into perspective, consider this: reform movement, Gates Foundation, and money vs. the anti-reform movement, Socrates, and thinking. I ask readers of Education Week: Where do you stand?

Walter Weis

Forest Hills, N.Y.

A version of this article appeared in the April 06, 2011 edition of Education Week as ‘Reform Model’ Is About Money, Not Learning