[Opposite the corporate reformers are] Advocates who support traditional, community-based public education and who oppose the forces of privatization, Common Core, reliance on standardized testing to hold schools and their teachers accountable, expansion of voucher programs and charter schools claim that while our schools are far from perfect, they are not failing. These advocates suggest that the quality of education being provided to American children is higher than it has ever been. They insist that poverty is the biggest problem in public education and that we should attack poverty and the disadvantages it creates for our children while protecting our educational traditions.
The purpose of this book is to show that both sides of this debate are terribly wrong and that both sides grossly misjudge the efficacy of education in America, both public and private. We suggest that both sides misinterpret the role of poverty and the other forces that contribute to the educational failure of an unacceptable number of Twenty-first Century American school children. It is the cultural equivalent of spending all of our resources on new and improved thermometers and fever reducers at the expense of attacking the cause of the elevated temperature. In the interim, the infection festers, unabated, while we poison the educational process with our intransigence.
How our nation responds to these challenges of the Twenty-first Century will determine the future of the American way of life, not to mention the American dream. Parents of children that we now refer to as baby boomers were fortunate to live in the world where there was great clarity with respect to core values, and at a time when the external forces that compete with the influence of parents and families were relatively insignificant. In each succeeding generation, parents have seen diminished clarity with respect to core values while the power and sophistication of external forces have grown, exponentially. Today, in this second decade of the Twenty-first Century, the external forces that compete for the attention of our children are unprecedented and of a power and magnitude that was unimaginable even a decade ago.
That these internal challenges come at a time when emerging economic powers, with laser-like focus, are working to challenge American economic and political supremacy places our future in grave jeopardy. It is vital that Americans understand that competition is a bad thing only for the player who has lost his or her ability to compete. Healthy competition brings out the best of all competitors. If we continue to slog down the same path, the health of our society and our ability to compete effectively will deteriorate at an accelerating pace.
The beauty of our situation as members of an ailing society, however, is that our educational system, both public and private, in addition to being the barometer with which we are able to identify and measure the severity of the crisis, also provides the most viable point of attack in quest of a solution. It is viable, however, only if we come together as one people, in all of our diversity, and work to restore our competitive advantage with the same sense of urgency that our competitors demonstrate. This crisis demands action and meaningful action requires that we challenge our fundamental assumptions and expand the boundaries of conventional wisdom.