Social Promotion

Richard Riley is challenging NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to stop social promotion after the 3rd grade [Why not 1st grade? -ed.].

Former U.S. secretary of Education Riley (one of the rare creatures to survive both of Bill Clinton̢۪s terms in office) came out in favor of federal policies aimed at stopping the advancement of students regardless of their performance in reading and math. He recoils, however, at the notion that you can help students by merely holding them back. From his office in South Carolina, Riley told NEWSWEEK̢۪s Jonathan Darman that politicians have to match tough social-promotion policies with a serious commitment to fixing schools.

I was going to make a snarky comment about how spending eight years in charge of fixing the schools and not fixing them is prima facie evidece that you should not be listened to of fixing the schools until I reminded myself that the federal government has virtually nothing to do with schools.

Still, the interview reveals the roots of the problem: The idea that it isn’t “fair” to “punish” a child for not learning if the schools aren’t the best possible. One would think it’s precisely those kids–who have the least going for them–who need to be protected from being passed through a system without learning.

FILED UNDER: Education
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jim Henley says:

    In a former life I frequently received job applications from diploma’d graduates of the DC public school system. What I saw convinced me that, at the very least, the penalties for civil fraud ought to apply to the administration of said school system, and that one could make a case for firing squads. The administrators had perpetrated a massive deceipt on these kids (“We’ve educated you!”).

  2. keenan says:

    The problem with education in America comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what stimulates young minds. The worst thing you can do to children is to seat them in desks and lecture them. In this country we champion musicians and actors and yet we neglect to require our children to learn artistic skills. These skills are crucial to the even development of the brain in these early formative years. All subjects are related to the arts one way or another and yet what gets cut first from a struggling school’s curriculum? You guessed it, the art and music classes. What is it that prevents us from collectively realizing this? We need to stop babysitting our children until they are eighteen, and start truly developing their potential. There are plenty of good teachers out there who would willingly embrace a shift in our educational philosophy. This kind of an idea won’t come from a politician because politicians don’t lead they follow.

  3. McGehee says:

    The problem with education in America comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what stimulates young minds. The worst thing you can do to children is to seat them in desks and lecture them.

    Funny, but we got generations of extremely well educated Americans, who led this country to the top of the global heap, by doing exactly that with them as children.

    The problem isn’t the setting — just like it wasn’t any of the other things the New Education types have been blaming their failures on for the last thirty years.

  4. You’re both right; you’re thinking of different age brackets. Young kids need to learn in an active, interactive way. Older kids can sit still for longer “lectures.”