Someone Has to Fail: The Zero-Sum Game of Public Schooling

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9780674050686: Someone Has to Fail: The Zero-Sum Game of Public Schooling
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What do we really want from schools? Only everything, in all its contradictions. Most of all, we want access and opportunity for all children—but all possible advantages for our own. So argues historian David Labaree in this provocative look at the way “this archetype of dysfunction works so well at what we want it to do even as it evades what we explicitly ask it to do.”

Ever since the common school movement of the nineteenth century, mass schooling has been seen as an essential solution to great social problems. Yet as wave after wave of reform movements have shown, schools are extremely difficult to change. Labaree shows how the very organization of the locally controlled, administratively limited school system makes reform difficult.

At the same time, he argues, the choices of educational consumers have always overwhelmed top-down efforts at school reform. Individual families seek to use schools for their own purposes—to pursue social opportunity, if they need it, and to preserve social advantage, if they have it. In principle, we want the best for all children. In practice, we want the best for our own.

Provocative, unflinching, wry, Someone Has to Fail looks at the way that unintended consequences of consumer choices have created an extraordinarily resilient educational system, perpetually expanding, perpetually unequal, constantly being reformed, and never changing much.

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About the Author:

David F. Labaree is Professor of Education at Stanford University.

Review:

No education scholar in America throws an analytical knuckleball as well as David F. Labaree of Stanford University.
--Jay Mathews, Class Struggle Blog in Washington Post

In this new book, Stanford Professor David Labaree offers a bleak reality-check on American public education, explaining that the system itself...is to blame for the failure of education reform. --Remmert Dekker in The Education Gadfly

Labaree--a vocal skeptic of the American public school system--is no stranger to writing about education. Here, he makes a solid case that American public schools are failing in many ways. --Library Journal

"In this important book...the skeptical, contrarian, and cheerfully pessimistic Stanford education professor Labaree trenchantly exposes the true purposes behind...American public schools and explains why the institution can never fulfill the dreams of those who use it or those who attempt to improve it. " --The Atlantic Monthly

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