mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Louisiana to Radically Reform Education


Public schools have forgotten their purpose. And John White, state superintendent of education for Louisiana, aims to remind them. In a piece penned for The Advertiser, White argues that the education system has moved away from preparing students for work. His department will release a blueprint in the fall tying education to career-readiness:

An earnest attempt to achieve rigorous career preparation in Louisiana would include not just changes to our diplomas, but also changes to how we reward schools and school systems in our accountability system. It would include changes in funding for career coursework, apprenticeships and internships. It would address the credentials required for professionals who teach and mentor young adults. And it would involve a concerted effort to inform the caretakers who shape so much of what adolescents choose to do with their lives.

White’s goal is to assist his students in attaining at least a “middle class wage” following college graduation. Perhaps he has a point. Many employers claim that college grads lack even basic professional skills.

But White’s approach shouldn’t be seen as a national panacea for public education. Rather, his proposal serves as an example of why states and localities should be empowered to make their own decisions about school curriculum, structure, and method. It’s likely that White understand the needs of the families in his state better than a federal board would, and is devising this particular plan to better serve them.

[Mortar boards image courtesy of Shutterstock]

Features Icon
show comments
  • Anthony

    “Public schools have forgotten their purpose.” And just what purpose is that? Are public schools to be fashioned for careerists, educating for jobs; does public education yet remain the sphere animated by democratic hopes of an effective educated citizenry functioning both for itself and the commonwealth?

    • Tom

      Well, it would be nice if it performed that function. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
      And most of the skills needed for a careerist also go into being a functional citizen.

      • Anthony

        For me it’s not about nice nor is it about functional ( given its indefinite meaning in this context – at least from public education standpoint). I am speaking to intent of article and its educational implication going forward – skills as used above is definitely overbroad but I will not quibble since education and importance to real democracy is salient. For me, end of thread thanks: article too short. (but see E.D. Hirsch: The Making of Americans)

  • Boritz

    I don’t understand the “moved away from”. Colleges, and especially top-notch universities have never been very big on preparing graduates for the commercial work place. Example: For years top computer science programs hyped the Pascal programming language when there was pretty close to zero demand for it in the market place. An elite CS program wouldn’t be caught dead teaching Cobol during the decades it was the most used computer language in the marketplace.

    Their reasoning? 1) We are here to teach principles that can be generalized to greater understanding, not to train people in commercially popular products used outside of the academy. 2) We are here to educate people for the work place 10 years in the future, not the work place of today.

    Employers have long understood this and consider graduates to possess practically none of the skills they actually value. The best you can hope for as a graduate is that they figure you are a trainable resource and can learn practically everything you will need to know on the job. Nothing new here.

    • Andrew Allison

      Agreed, but the subject of the article is public schools, and the real flaw is that it should be the task of public schools to prepare students to acquire the skills necessary to succeed — something which, in general, they are manifestly not doing (witness the amount of 3Rs remedial work being done as “post-secondary” education).

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service