ON-Lion Letter
In his new genial and challenging overview of endless debates over school reform for Harvard University Press, The Same Thing Over and Over:  How School Reformers Get Stuck in Yesterday's IdeasFrederick M. Hess shows that even bitter opponents in debates about how to improve schools agree on much more than they realize—and that much of it must change radically.  Cutting through the tangled thickets of right, and left-wing dogma, he clears the ground for transformation of the American school system.

Hess is a resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) in Washington, D.C.  The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports projects of Hess at AEI.

Whatever they think of school vouchers or charter schools, teacher merit pay or bilingual education, Hess notes in The Same Thing Over and Over, most educators and advocates take many other things for granted.  The one-teacher–one-classroom model.  The professional full-time teacher.  Students grouped in age-defined grades.  The nine-month calendar.  Top-down local district control.  All were innovative and exciting -- in the 19th Century.  As he shows, the system hasn’t changed since most Americans lived on farms and in villages, since school taught you to read, write, and do arithmetic, and since only an elite went to high school, let alone college.

Arguing that a fundamentally 19th Century system can't be right for a 21st Century world, Hess suggests that uniformity gets in the way of quality and urges us to create a much-wider variety of schools, to meet a greater range of needs for different kinds of talents, needed by a vastly more complex and demanding society.
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