Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Education Myths... & Politics

Here's my review of Jaye Greene's Education Myths:

There's just one key myth that this book doesn't shatter

And that one key myth is that the critics of the Powers that Be in education are, to quote one of the reviewers below, "right-wing" propagandists. Indeed, given the unfortunate political polarization of education policy in America, perhaps this book's greatest liability is the endorsement from Jeb Bush that appears on its cover.

For the most part, Jay Greene backs his claims up with references to specific studies, and one indication that he isn't distorting the data is that his critics haven't found fault with his data. The one exception I found was in his discussion of the Special Education Myth, in which he simply asserts that "any growth in neurological disorders caused by increased numbers of low-birth-weight babies has been more than offset by improvements in the prevention of such disorders in other areas, such as improved prenatal medicine, safe child car seats, and reductions in exposure to lead paint."

Greene does argue, convincingly, that the growth in special ed numbers is largely due to financially-motivated re-classifications. And, if students are generally less teachable than they used to be, it may be more because of teaching failures in the lower grades. But can we be sure that incoming kindergartners aren't less (or more) teachable than they used to be? It would be interesting to survey veteran kindergarten teachers--ones who've remained in the same schools for 20-30 years.

It would also be nice if Greene had included some of the myths that inform current teaching practices and curriculum choices--though these could fill a whole nother book.

These concerns aside, this is a hugely important book that convincingly debunks most of our most debilitating myths--and the left-wing and (yes!) right-wing assumptions that sustain them.


CaptiousNut said...


Can you point me to some good analyses on the total costs of special education?


Katharine Beals said...

A good place to start is Jay Greene's Education Myths.