Saturday, June 13, 2009

Education's Iron Triangle

This recent defense of traditional education programs, written by an expert from one such education program, highlights one of the fundamental problems in American education. In the present case, we have Dr. Thomas Brady purporting to offer an impartial and academic analysis of a system in which he and his institution hold a major financial stake. How can we possibly trust education schools to provide reasoned analysis our credentialing system, when it offers the only rationalization for their continued existence?

Though it gets less attention in Intro American Politics than the defense industry does, this dirty little triangle is a major impediment to reform. We have our powerful interest group - teachers unions - our trusted overseers - education schools - and our regulators in federal and state departments of education. Unions send a steady stream of their future members through ed schools, whose programs provide steady cash to their home institutions. These ed schools, in turn, provide intellectual support for a basically indefensible teacher certification system. This certification system, in turn, provides a raison d'etre for our sprawling education bureaucracy. How can anyone connected with this system have real incentive to blow the whistle on its inefficiencies?

Update: Okay, so I'm not the first to use the term for education. Though these folks and I seem to be speaking to different issues.

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