John Goodlad Says We Must Agree On Mission For Public Schooling

In a new essay, John Goodlad writes, “Surely the formulation of standards for schooling makes no sense until we agree on a mission for schooling.” Goodlad is 90 years old this year. The author of over 30 books, he is best known for his 1984 book, “A Place Called School.”

Goodlad is recovering from an illness and is grieving his wife’s death, but he maintains his passion for improving public education. Goodlad has seen many cycles of educational reform in his 90 years, and he writes that he agrees with the conclusions of David Tyack and Larry Cuban, expressed in their book, “Tinkering Toward Utopia,” that little of substance has changed in schooling in the past 100 years.

The continuing tinkering in education, as seen in No Child Left Behind, leaves Goodlad, “dumbfounded.” He writes, “How could we so ignore the lessons of 50 years of failed school reform?”

Goodlad writes, “Is there any major field of endeavor other than schooling that has so little agency for its own mission, conduct, and well-being? Given this reality, it is not surprising that the schooling enterprise is so rife with evidence-free ideology regarding its functioning. We will never have the schools we need until local communities, educators and their organizations, and policymakers share a common mission for them.”

“Is academic development the totality of the purpose of schooling?”, Goodlad asks.

And he answers: “We need to be aware that recent decades of research on cognition reveal hardly any correlation of standardized test scores with a wide range of desired behavioral characteristics such as dependability, ability to work alone and with others, and planning, or with an array of virtues such as honesty, decency, compassion, etc. Employers dissatisfied with employees who studied mathematics and the physical sciences in first-rate universities often call for higher test scores.”

Goodlad is a hero to school reformers. I last wrote about him in December, 2008: John Goodlad Says Public Must Agree On “The Democratic Purpose Of Public Schooling”

Also, see my post: ““What Is The Purpose, The Aim Of Public Education?” — Every School Board Candidate Should Answer”

Written by Mike Bock

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