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Public good -- or commodity?

March 28, 2012
The Huffington Post
Is education a commodity or a public good? Steele says a double standard is at work.
John Merrow


If you are reading this during daylight hours in March, chances are that millions of our children are now engaged in what's called "test prep." Just yesterday someone showed me the March calendar for a high-achieving public elementary school: two solid weeks of the month were blocked off for "TEST PREP," probably in caps lest any classroom teacher forget and do some real teaching.

The banality of "TEST PREP" clashes violently with the ideas I was exposed to last week. Last Thursday and Friday, I spent quality time with syndicated columnist Mark Shields, GE Chairman and CEO Jeffery Immelt, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), libertarian activist Giséle Huff, Stanford's Claude Steele, Assistant Secretary of Education Carmel Martin, and Roberto Rodriguez (President Obama's education adviser).

These seven separate meetings (in Washington, D.C. and northern California) had only one thing in common: big ideas about life and learning. While their politics are different, all celebrated the human spirit. Oh, and no one talked about TEST PREP or about what is happening in real classrooms in many schools.

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