THE MORE things change, the more they stay the same. Google and Microsoft are now calling for mandated computer science instruction in the public schools, urging public schools to include more “workforce development” so that foreign labor doesn’t have to fill technology jobs (“Firms call for tech classes,” Page A1, June 11).
More than 150 years ago, business leaders like Andrew Carnegie were calling for schools to tailor their teaching to fit the needs of manufacturing industries, the 19th-century version of “workforce development.” Increased standardized testing is seen as another key to making American student more competitive with their Chinese counterparts. Bill Gates seems to be providing the educational reform solutions to a public impressed with his business acumen.
The role of the American public school, as envisioned by Jefferson, was to educate a population to be thinking, activist contributors to a democratic society, not to provide worker bees. Public education today needs to be producing citizens: informed critical thinkers who can move our nation forward. We cannot continue to reduce education to a system that will simply provide human fodder for business and commerce.
Authentic education “reform” will never take place if we continue to allow the process to be driven by wealthy business leaders like Gates or Carnegie, or companies like Google or US Steel who believe that profit equals success. American public schools are the strength of American democracy and any reforms need to come from educators, not business “leaders.”