Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Public education: Examining Kitchens’ rosy portrait

Is there really a problem with public education? I had never even considered that there wasn’t, but Whitman Professor of Education John Kitchens made me rethink this assumption that I’ve always had. I had the opportunity to interview him, and initially, he rebuked me for having implied in my questions that there are huge problems in the public education system and that many schools are in a state of disarray.

He said, “A lot of indicators would show that actually schools aren’t doing the terrible job that I think is often portrayed in the media.” This shocked me; I had thought that I was going to be lectured on how terrible the system is, but Professor Kitchens had a surprisingly optimistic take on the issue, especially for someone who has been a public educator and witnessed firsthand the goings-on in the system.

“Politicians like to create a crisis,” he said. He went on to quote Reagan administration report called “A Nation at Risk,” which he noted was one of the first of its kind to be written not exclusively by the experts on the subject but also professional writers. According to Kitchens, it used “inflammatory language.”

“That report…was so poorly researched, that it was really a joke,” said Kitchens. Such an underhanded move as introducing an element of rhetoric into a report like that seemed to me typical of politicians, but I thought it a little unnecessary when talking about public education.

Just as I was beginning to think that perhaps Professor Kitchens’ stance was a bit too optimistic, he qualified these thoughts: “Having said all of that, I do agree that there are several problems in our public education system,” he said. In a later e-mail, he told me, “I don’t think anyone who knows how I feel about education would categorize me as an optimist.”

One of the biggest problems that Professor Kitchens sees the public education system facing is the implementation of bogus solutions proposed by politicians who are trying to portray more of a problem than there is. One of these is the No Child Left Behind Act.

Professor Kitchens and I agree here: The No Child Left Behind Act is nothing more than a set of standards. It provides no means for helping schools achieve them and punishes the schools that need assistance most.
“That seems kind of counterproductive,” Kitchens said. What I initially thought was Kitchens’ optimism turned out to be his frustration with phony pessimism. There is a real problem out there, and it’s only exacerbated by politicians who try to show it off as more than it is so that they can propose their own solution. These solutions tend to be just as poorly crafted as the reports that prompted them were researched.

Kitchens believes that one of the most helpful things that could be done to the system would be lowering class sizes.

“But of course, it’s all about money” he added.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *