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"A Nation at Risk"
Write-in "Doug Mann" for School Board
Another Option for Minneapolis School Board Voters (2004 General Election)
by Doug Mann, 29 Oct 2004, Submitted to the Star-Tribune for publication 28 Oct 2004

[Mpls] Mr. Mann's Statement, part 1 -- A Nation at Risk
Socialist2001@cs.com
Thu Jun 20 12:54:01 2002

In a message dated 6/19/2002 10:32:20 AM Central Daylight Time, [Mpls] class
size research (long) Denny Schapiro writes:

[snip]  

>  Educational Leadership did an issue on it in February. An
>  article written by Biddle and Berliner (authors whose work I
>  like and Mr. Mann cites frequently, if sometimes
>  misleadingly) analyzed the class size research...[snip]

Here Mr. Schapiro makes an unsupported characterization. I am sure that Mr. Schapiro cannot make a strong case that I have cited Berliner and Biddle "misleadingly" in even one instance.

The work of David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle that I cite so frequently is The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the attack on America's Public Schools, 1995.  

The Manufactured Crisis is about what is arguably the mother of all disinformation campaigns that was launched in 1983 with a
report entitled "A Nation at Risk."  A blue ribbon panel of K-12 education experts selected by the Reagan-Bush administration produced the report.   

>MR. MANN'S STATEMENTS
>There are so many statements of interpretation offered as
>fact it is difficult to address them all. I will simply say
>that I honestly appreciate Mr. Mann's advocacy for kids who
>are not doing well in Minneapolis and I am often
>disappointed that he makes the case using data so badly.
>
>  There are little things, like his mischaracterization of A
>  Nation at Risk:
>
>  <<A Nation at Risk" falsely claimed that the academic
>  achievement gap was being closed at the expense of the high achievers.>>
>  
>  The report said nothing of the kind. It can be read at:
>  
> http://www.ed.gov/pubs/NatAtRisk/
>

I will show that in its opening paragraphs *A Nation at Risk*
argues that the academic achievement gap was being closed
at the expense of high achieving students.  

"Our Nation is at risk. Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce,
industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by
competitors throughout the world ... the educational foundations of our
society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that
threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable
a generation ago has begun to occur--others are matching and surpassing
our educational attainments." -- A Nation at Risk, paragraph 1

"If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the
mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have
viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen
to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in student achievement
made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled
essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. We
have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational
disarmament." -- A Nation at Risk, paragraph 2

A claim that the academic achievement gap was being closed at
the expense of the high achievers is made in the following contentions:

"...the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded
by a rising tide of mediocrity..." and "...We have even squandered the
gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge.
Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped
make those gains possible...."   

What is meant by "a rising tide of mediocrity" was the alleged dumbing
down of the average high school graduate during the 1970s. This *unfounded*
claim was later contradicted by a study commissioned and suppressed by
the administration of George Herbert Walker "the education president"
Bush, known as The Sandia Report.  [See "Bush's Education Agenda" ]

According to Paul Copperman, (cited in A Nation at Risk),

"Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in education, in literacy, and in economic attainment. For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents."

"It is important, of course, to recognize that the *average citizen* today is better educated and more knowledgeable than the average citizen of a generation ago... Nevertheless, the average graduate of our schools and colleges today is not as well-educated as the average graduate of 25 or 35 years ago, when a much smaller proportion of our population completed high school and college. The negative impact of this fact likewise cannot be overstated." -- A Nation at Risk

The K-12 educational policy implemented to meet the Sputnik challenge included the promotion of curriculum differentiation through ability-groupingand its introduction into elementary school classrooms. Funding for Academically Gifted and Talented programs were greatly expanded, especially in the Deep South. The introduction of a gifted program puts pressure on teachers to ability-group their students.

It was argued that the ability grouping model is more cost-effective than the one-track academic / college-preparatory model in supplying brainpower to colleges (the social efficacy argument, which resonated with business groups like the Chamber of Commerce).  Ability-grouping was also supported by white supremacists as a way to keep blacks in their place.  
Thanks in large part to the Civil Right movement, a major shift in K-12 policy occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Schools districts were forced to desegregate by integrating black students into white schools.  New federal legislation and court decisions helped advocates of special needs children to force school districts to 'mainstream' special needs students. The one-track academic model also made a comeback in many elementary schools.

When school boards were faced with lawsuits to compel them to desegregate, many hired James Coleman or cited a 1966 study done by Coleman and others entitled Equality of Educational Opportunity, also well know as "the Coleman Report."  The 1966 Coleman report was, and still is one of the most frequently cited studies about the influence of schools and a students home life on academic achievement.  According to Coleman et. al.,

"Schools bring little influence to bear on a child's achievement that is independent of his background and general social context; and that this very lack of an independent effect means that the inequalities imposed on children by their home, neighborhood, and peer environment are carried along to become the inequalities with which they confront adult life at the end of school [The ManufacturedCrisis, 1995, Berliner and Biddle, page 71]"

Berliner and Biddle remarked that,

"Simply put then, the Coleman Report concluded that schools have no important effects on children, while family and neighborhood do. The mostimportant predictor of academic success for children seems to be the choice they made of their parents at birth." [The Manufactured Crisis, page 71]

also see my comments about the Coleman Report at

http://educationright.tripod.com/id106.htm

http://educationright.tripod.com/id101.htm

END OF PART ONE

Doug Mann
Candidate for Minneapolis School Board