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For the Public Good: Faculty Reflect on Lecture by Diane Ravitch

On February 21, Barnard College welcomed Diane Ravitch, former assistant secretary of education, for a lecture entitled Is a Public School a Public Good or a Shoestore? More than 300 students, faculty and community members gathered to hear Ravitch speak on the state of public education in the United States. Below, two faculty members reflect on the event.

Lisa Edstrom is a lecturer and supervisor of student teachers in Barnard's Education Program. Here, she considers the challenges facing new teachers in their professional development, given the emphasis on curriculum intended to raise test scores. An excerpt:

In the last few years, I have witnessed the increasing difficulty of student teachers to develop lesson plans that address the needs of New York City’s diverse student population, because they are being asked not to stray from the test-driven curriculum. Unfortunately, this loss of creativity is understandable; teachers and administrators fear for their jobs if they cannot raise test scores.

Read the full piece here.


Kimberley Johnson is an associate professor of political science. Here, she looks at the ramifications of applying market principles to public education. An excerpt:

Endless drilling enables students to pass tests, but the pedagogy does not educate them in ways that create the desired skills in a workforce. Ironically, in a moment when the factory model of production is being phased out across society and the economy in favor of flexible and smart systems of thoughtful and reasoned production, the American education system is returning to the nineteenth-century model of repetition and rote learning.

Read the full piece here.

Click here to learn more about "For the Public Good," a multi-year, interdisciplinary project entitled supported by a grant from the Virginia C. Gildersleeve Fund.

Watch the event in its entirety: