The European Solution, the European Problem

Last week researchers at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education issued a report indicating that American high school’s focus on college for all was essentially a failure and was responsible for a lot of the education achievement problems in this country. Now America’s professors cry foul.

According to the GSE researchers:

Our national strategy for education and youth development has been too narrowly focused on an academic, classroom-based approach. It is now clear that this strategy has produced only incremental gains in achievement and attainment, even as many other nations are leapfrogging the United States. In response, the report advocates development of a comprehensive pathways network [essentially more vocational programs] to serve youth in high school and beyond.

Now the report really wasn’t that rigorous. It was actually more of a polemic. But many find the implications of the piece (given the fancy school associated with it, a valid concern) disturbing.

And so the American Association of University Professors, the professional organization of American academics, fired back. This report is bullshit, the AAUP contends.

AAUP General Secretary Gary Rhoades writes that:

The recently released “Pathways to Prosperity” study from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education portends a narrowed set of largely class-based educational paths. The Harvard-based project takes its cue from Europe. It suggests that the solution to many students’ dropping out of the educational system is, as in Europe, to track students early on into alternative pathways. But such pathways close off students’ options for further education. To follow such a course would be to renege on our promise as a country and on our nation’s commitment to the principle that people’s educational chances should be shaped by merit not by money or family background.

Well okay. But citing the evils of old Europe still doesn’t mean the current American system works, does it?

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer