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Educational policy analysis archives
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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 10, no. 31 (July 02, 2002).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c July 02, 2002
Question of the student in educational reform / David P. Ericson [and] Frederick S. Ellett, Jr.
x Research
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2 710
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
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t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
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1 of 30 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 10 Number 31July 2, 2002ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2002, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES .Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. EPAA is a project of the Education Policy Studies Laboratory. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education .The Question of the Student In Educational Reform David P. Ericson University of Hawaii at Manoa Frederick S. Ellett, Jr. University of Western OntarioCitation: Ericson, D. P. & Ellett, F. S. (2002, Jul y 2). The question of the student in educational reform. Education Policy Analysis Archives 10 (31). Retrieved [date] from pursuing the goals of educational reform over th e past several decades, educational policy makers have focused on teachers, administrators, and school structures as keys to hi gher educational achievement. As the would-be beneficiaries of refor m, students, and their interaction with the educational system, have been almost entirely overlooked in the pursuit of educational excellence Yet, as we argue,


2 of 30students are as causally central as educators in br inging about higher educational achievement. In what follows, we examin e rational student interaction with the educational system and show wh y a large number of students have incentives to undercut the intent of the reforms. These are incentives created by our development of an educati onally-based, meritocratic social and economic system. No one, ap parently, is asking what exactly is in the reforms from the point of vi ew of quite rational, if sometimes irresponsible, student self-interest. Ind eed, the eduationally-based, meritocratic social and economi c system may be actually forming student preferences guaranteed to result in educational mediocrity rather than excellence. Finally, we comm ent upon the meaning of "educational excellence" and show why th e educational reformers' understanding of the purpose of public e ducation—to compete in the global economic system—can only fail to capt ure it. In doing so, we point to the kinds of educational structures and policies that create multiple pathways to competent adulthood that do ha ve a chance of bringing about the reformers' stated goal of excell ence in the educational system. But these are structures and policies that challenge the entire conceptual framework of the current educational ref orm movement. There is a curious omission in the spate of educati onal reform movement reports, analyses, and recommendations over nearly decades o f its existence. They have focused on teachers, the curriculum, school structure and q uality, content and performance standards, teacher education, and the like. Yet alm ost no attention has been paid to the would-be beneficiaries of implemented and proposed educational reforms: students. The achievement level of American students is bemoaned and, arguably, documented in the international comparison studies all right. But bey ond being assigned the task of benefiting from the reforms (i.e., learning), stude nts, their roles and activities, figure palely in the drive for higher educational achievem ent. Yet, as we shall argue, it is students—their goals, motivations, and conceptions of the good life—that may well prove to be the undoing of the educational reform movement. In other words, we might well improve the quality o f teachers, legislate higher content and performance standards and academic requirements and reform teacher education to the educational reform movement's content, and stil l totally fail in achieving anything close to educational excellence in our schools. The reason will be that there is nearly total disregard for rational student interaction wi th the educational system. Students, in quite rational pursuit of their own ends, are clear ly capable of undermining the intent of the reforms.In what follows, then, we shall in Part I develop a view of what it means to be an ideal student. Here we shall raise the question of whethe r students have any duty or responsibility for acting as an ideal student would And though we shall note that a general view of positive student responsibility can be justifiably defended—not merely asserted—we shall also show that students may be bo th irresponsible and rational in failing to act as ideal students. In Part II, we ex plore the distributive behavior of the educational system and the idea of a schooling-base d meritocratic society. Here we shall argue that this distributive behavior strongly favo rs the development of the kinds of students—students in name only—who contrast strongl y with a noted view of "the ideal


3 of 30student." In Part III, we shall develop a more refi ned typology of students as rational actors. We argue that in full rational pursuit of t heir own view of the good, these students in name only will rarely, if ever, find it in their interest to act as an "ideal student" would. In Part IV, we shall finally establ ish that the failure to take into account the various rational (and non-rational) interests o f students will most likely undermine the reformers' intent. In concluding, we point the way to the kind of fundamental and more penetrating educational reforms that could lea d the way to excellence in education and educational achievement.IThe Ideal StudentWhile the current educational reform movement has u ndergone successive changes in focus since the "A Nation at Risk" report was publi shed (D. P.Gardner, et al., National Commission on Excellence in Education,1983), the ba nner of "Educational Accountability" remains its enduring hallmark. Inde ed, as Finn et al. (1985, pp. 194-195) noted from its inception, the educational reform mo vement gathered steam towards its current infatuation with state and national educati onal standards precisely because of the widespread perception that the educational professi on had abandoned even the pretense of upholding educational standards, while disclaimi ng any responsibility for the sorry educational results. Thus, if educators were so der elict in their duty, school boards and, increasingly, state governors and legislatures and the federal government entered the scene to set things aright. Through such tools as h igher requirements for teacher licensure and inservice performance and district an d state, if not national, content and performance standards, the collective feet of educa tors could be held to the fire for meeting them. Student performance could then be mon itored through standardized testing, NAEP, and new (more realistic, but more ex pensive) statewide performance assessments tailored to state standards. While stud ent performance on the assessments, of whatever sort, remains the key item of interest to the "outcomes-oriented" reformers, educators clearly bear the onus of raising the scor es. In the earlier phase of the reform movement, more than a few school districts proposed or flirted with, policies to evaluate teachers individually on the assessment sc ores of their students. Relatively lower scores, as proposed then, could bring teacher probation or even dismissal (Rodman, 1986). The teacher unions and common sense however, have generally prevailed in arguing against such unfair evaluation practices. While school districts and states may be devising new (and fair) ways to help suspect teachers and new incentives to reward teaching excellence, sanctions for poor s tudent performance are now more often levied at entire schools, and even school dis tricts (Darling-Hammond, 1995; Popham, 2001).Doubtless there are many mediocre and poor teachers in the United States and Canada who should never be visited upon a classroom (but p robably no more as a percent than in other professions). Anyone spending time in scho ols will recognize this. Better teacher preparation, better conditions of employmen t, better professional development, and better procedures for identifying marginal teac hers are clearly in order (especially as promoted by educators themselves). Yet, once more t he reform movement's preoccupation with the teaching profession, as a wh ole, ignores a salient feature of education: education is far more than a linear tech nological process in which the teacher


4 of 30transforms "raw material" (the student) into a fini shed "product" (an educated person). Teaching, it is true, is a "making something happen profession. And so there is a causal relationship between teaching and student learning (see Ericson & Ellett, 1987). But it is not the simple causal relationship of the manufactu ring process so familiar to business leaders, legislators, and other leaders of the educ ational reform movement. Though understanding teaching as a "making something happe n" profession, these leaders are too prone to infer that a lack of success in teachi ng entails either that the teaching was poor (or the teacher a failure) or else that the te acher was never trying in the first place. Although central to the reform movement's demand fo rever increasing educator accountability, the inference from lack of teaching success to poor or derelict teaching is clearly fallacious. It simply ignores the causal role of students in bringing about their own learning. Students, obviously, are not raw mate rials awaiting only a teacher's skillful hands. They are an integral factor in the learning process. For even the best teaching in the world will produce no results if st udents fail to be concerned with their own learning and fail to master the tasks and activ ities necessary to educational achievement—tasks and activities such as attending to explanations, practicing introduced skills, and doing homework. In other wor ds, we are speaking of an interactive causal process in which either poor teaching or poor "studenting" is generally sufficient for a lack of student success. (Note 1) (Of course, extraordinary teachers and excellent students can overcome ineptitude and init ial disinterest in the other party.) Not all, therefore, hangs on the activities of the teac her as the educational reform apparently assumes (given the broadsides against educators and silence on students). If the schools are failing, indeed, then we have to explore the eq ual possibility that it is not educators, as a whole, who are necessarily at fault; rather, m ight the blame be laid squarely at the feet of our young?Yet delicacy, rather than logic, might suggest this to be an indecent proposal. To entertain blaming the young for our educational sit uation may sound a bit like entertaining a proposal to torture the innocent. St ill, it seems to be the only way to confront the educational reform movement with the l ogic of its own position. For if educators are fair game because of their causally c entral role in the learning process, then students, who are equally causally central, ca n hardly be spared similar attention. Fairness simply demands it.But much of this question concerning teacher and st udent accountability hinges on a prior issue that is also overlooked. Granted that t eachers and students are two major interactive causal factors in student learning, can causation serve as a sufficient basis to ground teacher or student responsibility? In a prev ious paper on teacher accountability (Ericson & Ellett,1987), we strongly criticized the view that causation entails responsibility For example, atmospheric conditions may cause lig htning, but we would not hold atmospheric conditions morally, legally, o r institutionally responsible for the lightning or its effects. Thus, moral or legal resp onsibility does not, in general, follow from being a causal factor.Therefore, as with teachers, in considering whether students are to be held responsible for their own learning, we require something beyond acknowledgement of their central causal role. We require a moral and/or legal theory that plausibly determines student responsibility. Here it may help to sketch an ideal of what it means to be a student. From there we can ask whether students have an obligatio n to fulfill the characteristics of that ideal. (Note 2)


5 of 30Clearly, the ideal of the student goes well beyond two well-known legal obligations required of all students: (1) to attend a legally s anctioned place of education (including "home schools") until a certain age and (2) to be n on-disruptive. Rather, a normative view of an ideal student extends to the manner of their activities within the school and out. And though students engage in a variety of act ivities during a typical school day ranging from the classroom, to recess, to having lu nch with friends, and on to engaging in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. W e shall construct, however, an "ideal" of the student that focuses selectively and primarily on purely scholastic and academic concerns.According to this ideal, it is a major aim, interna l to the practice of education, to introduce the young child to the manifold ways that we have come to structure our experience of the world. (Note 3) Initially, this means enabling them to begin to ma ster various skills common to decoding the intellectual traditions and disciplines that they will later confront (e.g., literacy skills and comp utation). As they develop and build on prior learning, they will be increasingly initiated into the whys and wherefores of the various forms of understanding that we have achieve d over time. For example, either explicitly or implicitly, they will come to learn t hat the study of human history differs (in content, concepts, methods, and tests for truth) fr om the study of natural science. And as they come to see the differences and commonalities among these basic ways or conceptual schemata by which we have structured the world, they thereby become more competent interpreters, critics, and evaluators of them. As Paul Hirst puts it, it is what it means to come to have a mind in the fullest sense. (Note 4) But from this brief sketch of perhaps what many tak e to be the ultimate aim of education, we can derive an intuitive view of the i deal student. It is contained in such familiar expressions as "she is a real student of x!" Such expressions betoken a true zea l on the part of the learner to get on the inside, to master an area or subject for its own sake. It carries with it the idea that the learner is prepared to do whatever is necessary to achieve that critical mastery. In part this will me an, depending upon the subject, practicing, mastering, and engaging in exactly thos e activities Fenstermacher (1986) speaks of in "studenting:": attending to instructio ns and explanations carefully, reading closely, critically discussing thoroughly, investig ating thoughtfully, questioning eagerly, practicing with an eye to proficiency, appraising c arefully, etc., while prizing each new gain in understanding throughout.It is by engaging in these activities in such adver bial fashion that we can give meaning to such expressions as "she is a real student." They d enote individuals who do not merely fill the institutional role of student. Rather, the y define for many of us the concept of the ideal student. And, of course, it will be the best teachers who are skillful in enabling students in the institutional sense to become stude nts in the ideal sense. One further aspect of this portrait of the ideal of the student remains to be emphasized. That is the question of motivation. In speaking of a student's zeal to get on the inside of a subject matter, we point to the fact that, whatev er external utility exists in mastering it, such external utility does not exhaust the student' s interest. In other words, the student values the learning primarily for its own sake and not merely for the sake of what it may lead to. Students in this sense are intrinsically motivated by the subject matter. And their preferences, commitments, and feelings come to be d efined by the standards of excellence inherent in the discipline. (Note 5)


6 of 30This ideal forms the basis for a typology and ranki ng of students. First, and foremost, is the student who comes to value a domain of knowledg e for its own sake. Such individuals are purely intrinsically motivated. (Th ey are also quite rare; we shall call them the "scholar" type.) Next, and somewhat more f requently encountered, are students who must often be given a specific external reason for studying a subject. These are students who are primarily motivated for reasons ex trinsic to an intellectual discipline itself, but come to value it because it is essentia l to some professional (or career) goal. (We shall call them the "professional" type.) Now t here may be those who are professionally-oriented, but who after time come to derive enjoyment from learning an intellectual discipline itself. (We can call them t he "scholar-professional" type.) Finally, similar to, but truly unlike, the professional type of student are those who are solely motivated for reasons strongly external to an intellectual discipline itself, because learning the material eventually leads to what they really seek: status and wealth. For example, they may not really care about wanting to heal people, but they view the practice of medicine as highly lucrative.Now all four types may engage in the activities of studenting mentioned above and may sometimes be indiscernible to teachers. But it is m ainly the scholar and scholar-professional types that fall under our conc ept of the ideal student. The purely externally motivated student, when concerned only w ith the status and wealth that formal education may help bring, is unaffected by t he aim of education adumbrated above. He is a student in the institutional sense t hat may at times, when long-term self-interest is considered, mimic the ideal of the student. As we shall note in the next section, the dynamics of the educational system str ongly fosters the development of this type of student. During other times, however, the s tatus and wealth motivated student most closely resembles that most teacher-dreaded st udent type: the wholly unmotivated student (or "indifferent/hostile" types). When coup led with indifferent or even hostile students, the status and wealth seekers swell the r anks of those who are in the schools, but not of it. For together they have no abiding al legiance to the purpose of education itself. While we know of no complete survey estimat ing the population of each type of student (surely an important task that should be do ne), general experience suggests that alarmingly large numbers of our young fall into the educationally unmotivated category. (Note 6) For they are students in name only. In many school s, especially at the secondary level, educators are in a day-to-day struggle to si mply find something to interest these nominal students. As we shall explore later, status and wealth seekers and indifferent/hostile students are quite capable of s cuttling the most carefully worked out educational reforms and may serve as the overlooked factor in undermining the reform agenda.But prior to attending to such issues, we finally n eed to comment upon the matter of student responsibility. Granted, as we have argued, that students are causal agents of their own learning, can students be held morally or institutionally responsible for their own learning? Some school districts, such as Beverl y Hills, California, request that all students sign a "student responsibility contract" t hat purportedly obligates students to perform the activities of students in the ideal sen se. But, of course, this is a "contract" and "obligation" in name only. It is neither enforc eable in a court of law, nor in the "court" of morality. So, this will not do.Teachers, on the other hand, because they receive r emuneration for their services and because they assume a high moral office in a helping profession, have both a legal and


7 of 30moral responsibility to do all that is in their pow er and authority to ensure that students learn and are introduced to the activities of the i deal student. The educational reformers, like the educational profession itself, do have a l egitimate interest in calling to task those in the profession who fall short in upholding that moral office. Parents and guardians, similarly, share in a legal and moral obligation to foster and encourage the development of their young to the utmost. And when parents them selves fall short, educators are correct in pointing out that parental negligence ca n be a major source of our educational ills. Though accurate enough, parents cannot be reg ulated by the state in the way that teachers can be. They fulfill the letter of the law by trying to ensure the regular school attendance of their children. Hence, educators tend to be the sole target of the reformers as a matter of politics and policy.But what of student responsibility for learning? As we have argued elsewhere, students can be held morally responsible in the context of a liberal democratic society. (Note 7) In so far as the chief purpose of education is held to be induction into the ideals of democratic citizenship, students have an interlocki ng right to education that comes with a duty to take it seriously (especially as students develop in rationality). (Note 8) Some rights also incur obligations, and civic education in a pluralistic democratic society (but not all societies) is one of these. But to the extent that educational reformers emphas ize other ends as the chief purposes of education, such as national economic expansion a nd personal social and economic status, the message is muddied, if not vitiated. (Note 9) We might well think that personal self-interest would dictate attending to t he activities of the ideal student. An interest, however, does not a moral obligation make As policy makers, the educational reformers are on a slippery slope of their own devi sing. Self-interest, even rational prudence, may channel students in a completely diff erent direction than that envisioned by them. We shall argue this in a variety of ways i n the next section. Excellence in education and the Jeffersonian ideal of a democrati c public cannot be purchased, no matter what the amount, by mercantilistic ends.IIMeritocracy, The Educational System, and the Educational Reform MovementIf a person comes to form certain goals, then one c omes to have a certain interest in the means to reaching them. The point is conceptual. If it is a young person's considered desire to truly explore a school subject, to get th e most out of it, then it is in her interest to master the art and skills of studenting. To the student in the ideal sense, performing the acts of studenting and performing them well is always in her self-interest. And it might be thought that it is a major function of the educational system to encourage this interest in studenting and to see that it is spread to as many students as possible. There is no doubt that many educators at the classroom and s chool levels are striving to do exactly that. Bringing students along to become int rinsically motivated in a subject matter is widely held to be one of the highest aims of teaching and education. At the level of the education system as a whole, ho wever, the story is rather different. Here, what is encouraged is not so much the attitud es and activities of studenting in the


8 of 30ideal sense as studenting in what we call the "syst emic" sense. Here the goals of studenting in the ideal sense—the zestful pursuit o f knowledge and understanding—give way to the goals of studenting in the systemic sens e: the pursuit of grades, degrees, and careers. In the systemic sense of studenting, knowl edge and understanding, at best, are merely means to these other goals. At worst, the tr ue pursuit of knowledge and understanding is an impediment to their attainment.We shall now explore why the educational system at the aggregate level encourages studenting in the systemic sense, explore what thos e activities and attitudes are, and show how they work to discourage students from beco ming students in the ideal sense. In Part III, we shall also comment on the rationali ty of the totally indifferent and even hostile student.The Distributive Behavior of the Educational System (Note 10) It is difficult to understand the emergence, develo pment, and expansion of the American educational system without taking into account deep ly-rooted, American cultural beliefs concerning the value of education. Jefferson long a go noted that a liberal education is essential to the preservation of the republic. The pioneers, who immediately established schools upon settling, saw in education the extensi on of civilization and the preservation of cultural tradition. And as the nation became tra nsformed from an agrarian to an incipient and now full-blown technological society, the American school was viewed as more and more central to the creation of a skilled workforce. It is this latter view concerning the value and importance of education, o f course, that primarily motivates the educational reform movement, concerned as it wi th America's position in the world economy.But there were other social forces at work that hel p explain the now nearly universal attendance and attainment of pre-collegiate educati on and rapidly expanding post-secondary education. Chief among these forces is that long-entrenched, almost fervent, American belief in the social and economic efficacy of education. It is a belief, or related collection of beliefs, that far predates the transformation of the early American agrarian economy. Writing in the 19th century, Alex is de Tocqueville (1835, 1969) clearly recognized this boundless faith in the powe r of education: Even the crowd can now plainly see the utility of k nowledge, those who have no taste for its charms set store by its resul ts and make some effort to acquire it…As soon as the crowd begins to take an interest in the labors of the mind, it finds out that to excel in some of them is a powerf ul aid to the acquisition of fame, power, or wealth (p. 458). The belief in the social and economic efficacy of e ducation springs from 18th century liberal ideology that holds that social rewards and privileges belong not to an elite, hereditary class, but should go to those individual s of talent, intelligence, and industry. The ideology of America, if not the reality, has al ways been one of meritocracy. Thus, with the growth of the common school in the 19th ce ntury, it takes little imagination to understand how beliefs concerning the social and ec onomic efficacy of education could be translated into a conviction that schooling pays social and economic dividends. Clearly, it is a conviction that could appeal to em ployers interested in the relatively


9 of 30greater profits an educated workforce could generat e. And it could appeal to individuals who viewed schooling as a way to better their life chances. The transformation of the secondary school from an elite to a mass institutio n in the 20th century appears to have cemented the relationship between the social and ec onomic efficacy of education and the conviction that schooling pays off socially and eco nomically. (Note 11) In the later rapid expansion of higher education, we find ample confir mation of that expected relationship. To understand why, imagine a society that distribut es social and economic benefits (income, status, earnings opportunities, etc.) on t he basis of the distribution of purely educational benefits (knowledge, skills, judgment, etc.). Such a society is likely to be extremely inefficient. It is difficult and time-con suming to discover who knows more and who less. But if there were an intervening soci al institution that functions to evaluate individuals' relative possession of educat ional benefits, then such official testimony would straightforwardly provide the basis for a subsequent distribution of social and economic benefits.In our own society, it is through the development o f certification in the educational system (by such instruments as grades, test scores, diplomas, and transcripts) that made possible the development of a relatively efficient meritocracy based on education and gave powerful confirmation to the belief in the eff icacy of education. Further, it welded a hodgepodge of schools and colleges into a nationa l educational system. For just as certification serves the social and economic system grades, transcripts, etc. serve the educational system as a "medium of exchange." This medium of exchange function of grades, transcripts, and diplomas is based on their rough "surrogate" (Note 12) capability to stand in for or represent the possession of rela tive levels of knowledge, skills, and judgment. The standard grade of "A," for example, i s shorthand, a way of saying that a student has shown superior mastery of a subject (gi ven a certain system level). It permits the avoidance of exhausting discussions of exactly what the student has mastered. And in their medium of exchange function, these surroga te educational benefits make possible communication among educational institutio ns creating easier transfer and placement policies between schools at the same leve l and ease and efficiency in selection and placement policies between schools at different levels (say, high school and college). Thus, surrogate educational benefits make the educational system possible. Yet they also provide the basis for linking the edu cational system as a whole with the social and economic system.It is not difficult, then, to understand how an act ual educationally-based, meritocratic society works. Basically, it encompasses four disti nct distributions of which only two are the educational system's own. They can be encapsula ted as follows:Figure 1 Figure 1 can be understood as saying that the distr ibution of educationally relevant attributes (intelligence, tenacity, and choice) in the school-age population in large part


10 of 30gives rise to the distribution of educational benef its in that same population (some learn more than others). In turn, the distribution of edu cational benefits produce a distribution of surrogate educational benefits (some are evaluat ed more highly or get higher test scores than others). Finally, the distribution of s ocial and economic benefits (some get better jobs, earn more, obtain higher status than o thers) is distributed on the basis of the relative distribution of surrogate educational bene fits. Of these four distributions, only 2 and 3 are clear ly distributed by the educational system directly. (The "genetic lottery" and early childhoo d life chances generate the distribution of educationally relevant attributes; the social an d economic system directly distributes social and economic benefits.) But what is central to the idea an educationally-based meritocratic society is the notion that adult socia l and economic advantages should be based on the distribution of (surrogate) educationa l benefits. "On the basis," then, entails that there is more than an empirical likelihood of a positive relation between the two distributions. Rather, it has to do with the manner in which the adult distribution of social and economic benefits is socially legitimate d. (Note 13) As Green et al. (1980, 1997, Ch. 6) put it, entailed is the following norm ative principle: "Those having a greater share of (surrogate) educational benefits m erit or deserve a greater share of social and economic benefits." This educationally-based me ritocratic principle provides a social basis for the way that subsequent social and economic inequalities can be regarded as justified. (Note 14) It is a principle, in other words, of distributive justice. It is the principle concealed in the very notion that schooling pays. It is also the principle responsible for prompting students to student in th e systemic, rather than ideal, sense that we shall explore below. Moreover, it is the pr inciple that may well prevent any real and lasting educational reform. It remains now for us to draw out how differing student types might rationally interact with a meritocratic educational and social system.IIIThe Different Ways of Rationally Interacting with the SystemUp to this point in our treatment of the student an d educational reform, we have not adequately considered the importance of a student's entire motivational and belief configuration. Although it is helpful to know that a person has a certain view of the good, more information is needed to explain, and in most cases justify, the student's interaction with the educational system. Beyond com ing to know a person's view of the good and their other, perhaps conflicting, goals an d purposes, we also require an understanding of the relative strength of each of these if we are to understand what the person has good reason to do. In adopting this expl anatory framework of student behavior, we are in effect considering students as rational agents who pursue alternative courses of action for which there are comparatively good reasons. Since young children generally have not developed a motivational and bel ief system sufficiently to be viewed as rational agents, we shall confine our analysis t o the population of intermediate, senior high, and college students who are (roughly) ration al agents. (We readily grant that many students at these levels are not -or only occasio nally -rational believers and doers; their beliefs and behaviors often demonstrate that. ) Here, we want to show that even when students are fully rational, the distributive dynamics of the educational system encourages student conduct that conflicts with the ideal of the student —and so creates


11 of 30conflicts between educational objectives and studen t objectives. These conflicting aims and desires present extraordinary challenges to and put constraints on the direction and degree of real educational reform.In assuming that the educational system contains so me students who are rational, the power of our analysis depends crucially on the conc eption of "rationality" that we use. It is difficult to find answers to questions about whe ther an action is rational (reasonable), and in many areas such answers are controversial as well. (For example, it is extremely controversial whether every rational actor has comp elling reasons to treat all people morally.) Regardless of the difficulty in all cases our arguments will assume three major claims about rational agency that are well-establis hed and accepted by most current philosophical research (and even here there is cont roversy—followers of David Hume would not fully endorse our second claim): C1. A rational agent need not (but can) have a domi nant concern for his or her own long term welfare. C2. A rational agent's desires and beliefs are open to critical appraisal in light of the facts and logic. C3. In so far as a rational agent seeks a specific goal, the agent will seek out effective means for fulfilling that goal. The first claim rejects the view that a rational pe rson is necessarily prudent (e.g., see Parfit, 1986, on critical present aim views of rati onality). The second claim rejects the view that only the means to fulfilling one's desire s—and not the desires themselves—are open to critical appraisal. In what follows, we ass ume, therefore, that the rational agent's beliefs and motivations could be appraised as reaso nable or unreasonable in light of his or her circumstances. The third claim reminds us th at all rational agents will take care to find ways to reach their goals. It is, however, bey ond the scope and limits of this paper to provide the detailed arguments to sustain these claims. What reasons, then, might a student who has various capacities, beliefs, purposes, loyalties, and commitments have for interacting in certain ways with teachers, administrators, counselors, etc. in the system? Let us begin by reconsidering the ideal student who intrinsically values knowledge and unde rstanding (i.e., for its own sake) and who is intrinsically motivated in the educational s ystem. When this type of student interacts with the system, the love of scholastic a nd academic learning dominates and primarily influences the person's behavior. Of cour se, if basic economic needs are not being met apart from activities in the educational system, rationality requires that such a student temper her pursuit of the intrinsic benefit s of learning with more career-related aims. (It may well be irrational for a person to go through primary and secondary school loving learning but never pondering how they are go ing to live after the close of their school years.) But still the ideal student is only motivated in minor ways by the extrinsic values of education. As noted above, we call this k ind of student "the scholar." And as mentioned previously, this ideal student is rare, i ndeed. Consider now the type of student who is primarily a ttracted to a particular practice or profession (say, healing people or designing high q uality items in the cases of medicine or engineering, respectively), but who sees no (or little) intrinsic value in knowledge or understanding per se. This individual will require that all the knowledge and


12 of 30understanding worth acquiring must be relevant to h is or her professional goals. In dealing with teachers and texts, this kind of stude nt, who we have called "the professional," will be motivated to learn, but only on the condition that the teaching (and the grades) is clearly connected to becoming a cert ain kind of professional. It has often been said that the best motivation for learning something is intrinsic motivation (see, e.g., Jerome Bruner, 1960). In the strong sense, however, this is false. In caring strongly about achieving some good internal to a practice (say, healing people), then a rational agent would care strongly about acq uiring the means to achieve the goal. This is roughly the principle (C3) of practical rat ionality. One of the best motivations for learning organic chemistry is the belief that it wi ll be really useful in the medical profession. The professionally-oriented student nee d not intrinsically value organic chemistry, but her respect for its utility will lea d her to learn it very well indeed. It should now be clear that differences between the scholar and the professional account for much of the differences in what is learned and how it is learned. Because their primary reasons differ, these two types demand and expect different things from teachers and the system. For example, the professional type will always be ready to demand from teachers how the content will be useful for her career interests. ("How will I ever use th is stuff?!?")And these differences between types of students can take place within a single individual who strongly, intrinsically values the various form s of knowledge but who, to an equal degree, extrinsically values these forms. For such an agent, determining what to learn and how thoroughly to learn it will be a difficult trade-off (or compromise) between competing goods. Knowing what to expect of this bif urcated agent is a difficult task. This type of person may demand and expect different things at different times in ways that seem to lead to unpredictable and irregular be havior. We have called this kind of student the "scholar-professional."For each of the three types of students, who most c losely fit aspects of the ideal student, we have assumed that their motivation for economic and social status has little influence on their interaction with the educational system. W e assume that their primary and dominant motives to be either the intrinsic and/or extrinsic valuing of educational benefits. Recall, however, that the surrogate educa tional benefits (grades, test scores, diplomas, etc.) function to distribute non-educatio nal social and economic benefits. Now it is clearly possible and probable in our individu alistic, wealthand status-oriented society (though clearly not necessary) for a ration al agent to be primarily motivated to acquire the various social and economic goods that help make life more enjoyable (to an extent). As Toqueville noted, it is also possible a nd probable that a rational agent may come to see that acquiring a differentially greater share of surrogate educational benefits is a comparatively reasonable means to acquiring a differentially greater share of social and economic benefits. (It is a highly risky, if no t downright irrational, strategy to count on just being lucky.)Suppose, now, that this kind of rational agent neit her extrinsically nor intrinsically values pure educational benefits (knowledge, skills understanding, etc.). This student, who we have called "the status and wealth seeker" ( one kind of "systemic" student), wants the degree (or the grade) only because it is a reasonable means to social and economic benefits. But this kind of student will re gard the acquisition of knowledge and understanding as an arbitrary hurdle or obstacle to getting the diploma (and then the


13 of 30goods). Though the status and wealth seeker will wa nt the grade and eventually the diploma, he or she will regard the learning as utte r drudgery—something to be done as minimally as possible and something to be forgotten as soon as it is practical (i.e., as soon as the grade is assigned, the degree received, or the SAT test taken (Note 15) ). This type of "student" will be like a chameleon to his o r her teachers. For this type's public display will be like the scholar but with a fair em phasis on "brown nosing" behavior. Privately, however, he or she finds it all a rather disgusting game to have to play, though one played with typical thespian resources. When it is possible to avoid detection, the status and wealth seeker will lie and cheat, plagia rize, steal, or buy the necessary work (term paper mills), and do anything that will preve nt other students from receiving higher grades than his or her own.Though morally rather unattractive, we should expec t little else from a rational agent who sees the institutional norms of schooling and t he social tradition of academic education as basically arbitrary matters. As we sha ll see, the normative principle connecting the educational and social and economic systems strongly encourage status and wealth seekers to remain in the educational sys tem when their talents and capacities might be more productively—not to say morally—engag ed in pursuits outside it. But the development of this kind of person is an unintended effect of our adoption of an educationally-based meritocracy.There is yet a final kind of systemic student to id entify: to save space (since they are somewhat different, but motivationally the same in school), we called this type "the indifferent/hostile student." This is the "student" who neither intrinsically or extrinsically values pure educational benefits nor expects (or wa nts) a relatively greater share of social and economic benefits brought about through the pursuit of higher grades or diplomas. These individuals may very well want an a bundance of material wealth and social respect; but they either disdain the effort (and charade) the status and wealth seeker employs in securing surrogate educational be nefits or else views the institution of schooling with repugnance.How, then, could it be rational for the indifferent /hostile student to remain within the educational system and not drop out? The answer eas ily could be friends and expectations. The indifferent/hostile student's fri ends are in school and he or she has a primary motivation to be with them. Alternatively, such persons know that the family and society at large expect them to be in school, a nd they strongly want to please them. Finally, it is extremely rational for a teenage dru g dealer to want to be close to the market of other kids. All of these are plausible an d, no doubt, salient reasons for many of our disaffected young. But a deeper reason for staying in school has to do with the dynamics of the educational system that dictate a defensive strategy for ration al agents continuing in school at least through the 12th grade. As rates of high school com pletion have climbed towards 100% of the school-age population in this past century ( currently about 80% of 17 yearolds complete high school), the positive social and econ omic benefits associated with high school completion have drastically declined. Indeed as a purely logical point, at 100 percent attainment, completion of high school in it self can have no disproportionate social and economic pay-off for individuals (Green et al. 1980 & 1997, Ch. 6). (This means that the status and wealth-seeking student is forced to go on to higher education where the pay-off prospects are still real.) But if completion of high school is no longer a big deal, not completing high school is an absolute disaster for individual s. In an


14 of 30 educational system in which nearly everyone complet es high school, being one of the few who drop out is a near certain recipe for a lif e of the lowest paying jobs with an attendant probability of periods of unemployment or a generally unappealing life. (How many "life-long" drug dealers manage to retire afte r leading a "work" life free of misfortune?) The indifferent/hostile student, if ra tional, is compelled to remain in school out of defensive necessity (see also Thurow, 1975).But since the indifferent/hostile student is indiff erent or hostile to both the acquisition of knowledge and understanding and to the relatively g reater social and economic pay-off of advanced formal education, this systemic type of student will have little reason to come truly to grips with the curriculum or even to engage in the status and wealth-seeker's charade with teachers. They have re ason only to avoid the disaster that confronts the school dropout. And once they are com pelled to be in school where they, at bottom, do not want to be, their expression of frus tration, boredom, and hostility is quite understandable, if not potentially explosive (witne ss the rash of school shootings, etc.) The five general kinds of students can, thusly, be categorized in terms of the kind of motive and the (comparative) strength of the motive (see Table 1 below). What it shows is that rational students can have a variety of dif ferent kinds of reasons for dealing with the educational system. For each type of student, t he reasons they have will provide the rational justification for their action strategies. (And here we must stress the equally important fact that many students interact irration ally or non-rationally with the educational system, but still they mimic in large p art the behavior of the status and wealth-seeker and the indifferent/hostile students: the two kinds of systemic students. They just are not as consistent and clear-minded ab out why they act as they do.) Moreover, a typology of the kind that we offer here calls for more and better empirical research to determine more precisely the relative p roportions of each kind of rational student at the various levels of the educational sy stem and their less rational counterparts. (Note 16) Such research will improve our understanding of wh at kinds of reforms are likely to be effective in working with each kind of student and in what degree. As we turn to the final part of this paper, we shall address our comments to other important, more philosophical, aspects of this issu e.Table 1 Certain Types of Student With Respect to Kind and S trength of Motive Kind of Motives (Reasons) Intrinsically Motivated by Knowledge andUnderstanding Extrinsically Motivated by the Utility of Knowledge Extrinsically Motivated by the Social andEconomic Benefits of Educational Attainment ScholarDominant-StrongestWeakWeakProfessionalWeakDominant-StrongestWeak


15 of 30 Scholar-ProfessionalOne of the Two Dominant/Strong The Other of the TwoDominant/Strong Weak Status and WealthSeeker Strongest WeakWeakDominant/ Strong Indifferent/Hostile WeakWeakWeak or Negative Dominant Strongest IVStudent Rationality, Educational Excellence, and The Educational Reform MovementThrough the framework we have established, we hope we have made a start in establishing that rational student action can have a powerful effect on the eventual results of the educational reform movement. Yet it still seems rather odd that there is very little mention in the educational reform liter ature on potential student reaction to reform efforts. And what little there is comes main ly from within the educational profession itself (for example, the so-called "midd le-school philosophy"). But perhaps this oversight should not be overly surprising afte r all. For several concerns and assumptions have been at work in the educational re form literature from its inception with "The Nation at Risk" report. These are concern s and assumptions that have dominated and directed the ensuing discussion and d ebate by policy makers over what reforms to pursue.The first of these concerns has been the economic c ompetitiveness of the various states, and the nation as a whole, as the post-World War II dominance of the United States underwent successive challenges on the world market especially in the 1970—1990 period. It was during this time that the educationa l reform movement first emerged and gathered steam to the point that the 2000 state and national elections made educational achievement the paramount political issue facing th e country. (Now, of course, education has been overshadowed by the events of 11 September 2001.) In other words, the policy makers have shackled the cause of educat ional reform to the fortunes of our aggregate economic activity. But this view of the p urpose of education—to supply a schooled workforce to meet the needs of an increasi ng technological world—almost guarantees that the young and their purposes for un dertaking schooling will be lost from view. Yet almost no one, we would conjecture, goes to school and strives (or fails to strive) for higher levels of educational achievemen t because it is good for the American economy. Because of this tunnel vision driving educ ational reform, it is difficult to find a policy maker on whatever level who has asked a mo st basic question: What is in it for the student?Second, in viewing high levels of educational achie vement as the principal means to attain economic salvation, the educational reform m ovement tends to assume that the young are monolithic in nature. Indeed, the ongoing concern with school drop outs has


16 of 30one primary aim: get them back in school (or keep t hem from dropping out) so that they can be "regular" students once more. But, as we hav e argued, there is no such thing as a "regular" student. There are a variety of student t ypes who vary in their goals and strength of motivation, and by anyone's estimate mo st of these do not resemble the three types of an ideal students. Enticing drop outs back into schools will do little more than reinforce this monolithic view of students and perh aps lower achievement levels further. Early school leavers, many of whom have subjectivel y reasonable beliefs in light of their limited experience, can potentially be shown that i t is definitely in their long-term social and economic self-interest to return to (or stay in ) school, if only to avoid the disaster that is their eventual destination. But such polici es and programs to encourage them to return to school will only swell the ranks of indif ferent/hostile students (and to some extent status and wealth-seekers), which is why mos t of them left school to begin with. It is not that we should be indifferent to the plight of the drop out, for it is serious and real. Rather, we need to understand that keeping those yo ung in school who have no taste, at least at the moment, for academic work is hardly a recipe for higher levels of achievement in the aggregate and for harmonious sch ool environments. Again, for any proposed educational reform, we must ask one of the most important policy questions: What is in it for the student? An d this is not simply a crass, egoistic type of question to raise either. Some ends for whi ch humans act are ultimate ends concerning "internal" goods (about which more below ) and can be shown to be worthy of both rational and moral choice. Thus, the schola r, the professional, and the scholar/professional type of student who, in pursui ng the ideals of knowledge and understanding and/or service to fellow citizens and humanity, are engaged in pursuits and practices that are rationally and morally lauda tory. But still, it makes sense to ask from their point of view what is in any proposed educational reform for them ? Yet these kinds of students are probably in the minority of s tudents in the educational system. The educational system, because of the normative princi ple linking the educational and social and economic systems, is replete with system ic status and wealth seekers and indifferent/hostile students. (And it is well to no tice that many so-called professionally-oriented students are actually statu s and wealth seekers. How many students, for example, would pursue the medical or legal professions were they of low pay and low prestige?) Thus, the success of impleme nted and proposed educational reforms rests largely on their ability to engage th e interest of the status and wealth seeker and the indifferent/hostile student.But now consider the nature of the proposed and imp lemented reforms. For example, there are reforms that lengthen the school day and the school year. There are reforms that call for a more demanding school curriculum and hig her graduation requirements. There are reforms that call for the ending of the "social promotion" of students from one grade to the next higher, regardless of school performanc e. There are educational reforms that mandate a minimum grade point average for participa tion in extracurricular activities such as sports. And there are state standards-based exams that govern high school graduation. Now few of these reforms are likely to affect adversely the interests of the scholar, the scholar/professional, and the professi onal. Of course,the professional and scholar/professional may resent more and higher req uirements in areas irrelevant to their interests. However, one of these reforms—standardsbased examinations—could well impact adversely the interests of the scholar and t he scholar/professional. That would especially be true if the testing, as likely, drive s classroom instruction in a teacher and school "accountability-based system" now being impl emented in state after state. For as


17 of 30teachers and administrators feel accountability pre ssures to raise average test scores, they are likely to target instruction at the "least able students (who have the most room to improve). We should expect an attendant result to b e the lowering of the level and content of teaching. In this way, state standards-b ased, assessment and accountability systems could help turn many ideal students into cy nical, resentful ones or else help drive them into the private sector of the education al system. Alternatively, even the scholar may become frustrated by a different kind o f reform found in the Ontario, Canada schools that expects students to master a fa r more demanding curriculum in much less time—a form of "curricular intensificatio n." But, now, what is in these reforms for the status a nd wealth seeker and the indifferent/hostile student? The answer is little e lse but pain and suffering. The most rational response of the status and wealth seeker i s to seek shortcuts and end-runs around these reforms when necessary and to try to frustrat e their intent whenever possible. For the indifferent/hostile student, there is but one r ational strategy: sabotage at all times by refusing to play the game when there is nothing at stake personally. And when high school completion is at stake in those school distr icts and states with test-passing requirements, the indifferent/hostile student, if r ational, will put forward the minimal effort necessary in order to pass the test, thus on ly grudgingly avoiding the plight of the drop out.Of course, these are but a few ways to frustrate an d undermine attempts to reform the educational system. Many of our more rational stude nts, in the main, may not know and understand in any great depth the various ways we h ave come to structure our experience of the world, but they can be very clever and resou rceful in ensuring that they never come to that truly educated state. And can we blame them? Perhaps in a world that emphasizes the intrinsic value of pure educational benefits and their service in upholding the ideals of democratic citizenship, we might well place blame on the more rational students who foolishly waste important educational opportunities. But can we place blame on such students in a world that emphasizes f ormal schooling as the prime means to economic dominance as a nation and "making it" s ocially and economically in personal terms? (Can we even place blame on such st udents in a world that uses grades "earned" to sort students at each level? Even the s cholar and professional types will see how getting high grades is strongly related to gett ing into higher levels of the system.) (Note 17) We think not. For it is not our students who have placed great emphasis on the purely instrumental value of formal education for b oth the economy and the social and economic standing of the individual. Rather, it is the truncated vision of the erstwhile educational reformers and of a society that apparen tly cares more about the credentialed symbols of educational achievement than about the i ntrinsic and extrinsic value of pure educational benefits in leading a good and worthy l ife. We have, in other words, unerringly established an educational system and a set of social and economic incentives that are guaranteed to deliver marginal educational achievement and to create resistance to any real and meaningful educational reform. We s hould not be surprised, therefore, to find so many status and wealth seekers and indiffer ent/hostile students in our schools. For in creating an educationally-based meritocracy, we have done everything we could to encourage their development.Education in this way, rather than seriously pursue d, becomes a rather cynical game to be played. The problem is not that we fail to value education. Clearly, Americans (and Canadians) do. The problem, instead, is the way we value education.


18 of 30This points to the deep and final incoherence that lies at the heart of the educational reform movement. By shackling the drive for educati onal excellence in education to the cause of competitiveness in the world market, we ar e likely to achieve neither. For at the heart of the reform movement, there exists a defect ive understanding of the nature of educational goods, true educational standards, and how excellence is to be promoted and sustained. The cause of this defective understandin g is an intellectually-derived, moral tradition that runs deep and powerful in American l ife: "moral individualism." Moral individualism is, as Stoutland notes, "...a compreh ensive, individualistic moral theory about how individuals should live their lives and r elate to society" (1990, p. 107). At its best, it can provide a rationale and basis for unde rstanding society as a cooperative endeavor in which some self-sacrifice is required o f all for the benefit of all. At its worst, and this is its modal tendency, moral indivi dualism promotes egoism and the satisfaction of individual preferences even at the expense of others. Since, as we claim, moral individualism is clearly reflected in the thi nking of the educational reformers, it will profit us to examine some of the beliefs that comprise it.Moral Individualism and the Educational Reform Move mentAgain following Stoutland, "...moral individualism understands the good as anything that satisfies an individual's desires, interests, or preferences. This implies that all goods must be individual goods, that is, goods for, and a ssignable to, particular individuals, since all desires, interests, or preferences belong to particular individuals" (1990, p. 119). It follows from this that a social good can only be one that satisfies the preference s of most of society's members because a social or pu blic good is only the sum of individual preferences. The common good or public i nterest is only, on this view, the sum of individual preferences. The common good or p ublic interest is thus necessarily reducible to the private interests of individuals. The provision of education to all, then, is a social or public good if it can be shown to be in the public interest, that is, the interests of most of society's members. Although altruism—or the self-sacrifice of one's own private interests for the private interests of othe rs—can find a place within moral individualism, that place is necessarily precarious For happiness or the good life in moral individualism is a life in which one's own pr ivate interests are maximally satisfied. Thus, appeals to the common good must be couched in terms of appeals to the private interests of the many. And when individuals do not see a particular candidate for a public good deserving of their own support (i.e., in their own private interest), the majority who do may be forced to compel self-sacrif ice on the part of those who do not (e.g., compel them to pay taxes for the support of formal education). As, Stoutland succinctly puts it, "What is distinctive about mora l individualism is not that it assigns no important role to society, but that it regards soci ety, as wholly instrumental to goods for the particular individuals who are its members…Soci eties [on this view] do not constitute preferences; their role is to satisfy th em" (1990, pp. 120). We are now in a position to appreciate the way in w hich the educational reform movement is ensnared in the trap of moral individua lism. In order to appeal for higher levels of achievement in—and more money and account ability for—education, the reformers have been forced to explain how higher ac hievement is instrumental to the satisfaction of the sum total of private interests. This they have done through the appeal to the economic competitiveness of the nation and t he related theme of a forewarned unilateral educational disarmament." (Note 18)>


19 of 30But while the reformers carried on the battle-cry f or educational reform to society at large, they left their rear unguarded on the issue that we have addressed: the interests of students. But should they finally address the vario us rational interests of students, then what, within the confines of the value framework of moral individualism, can they say? First of all, no appeal is possible to education as an intrinsically valuable good, since in moral individualism nothing has intrinsic worth. Here something is good only i f it satisfies some private preference. Second, for them no appeal is possible to education as an extrinsically valuable good, a good which by definition leads to an intri nsically valuable good, since again in moral individualism nothing has intrinsic worth. For such a view, something is good only if it satisfies priv ate (short term or long term) preferences. And if a student has no preference for higher educational achievement (short term or long term), no instrumental appeal i s possible. Third, because the reformers have tied education to the purpose of eco nomic competitiveness—rather than to the non-individualistic ideals of full-blown rat ionality and democratic citizenship—no appeal to student responsibility is possible. And f ourth, appeals to students to achieve highly for the public good (economic competitivenes s) are definitely likely to fall on deaf ears. Any tendencies toward self-sacrifice in our moral individualistic society are fairly diminished by the teenage years. (The patter ns of altruism that clearly do remain are no doubt testaments to the staying power of tho se more communitarian social institutions such as the family and church.) And fi nally, unlike the paying of taxes, it is doubtful that we would compel the young to self-sac rifice by threatening fines and prison sentences for low achievement—though in a fe w places state legislators have actually introduced bills to deny a driver's licens e to errant students! Thus, the only appeal to students that can work is to their self-interest. The educational reform movement has no other real recourse. But in the appeal to narrow self-interest we have, given the structure and dynamics of an educat ionally-based meritocracy supported (by and large) by a bedrock of moral individualism, the very instrument that delivers the educational mediocrity the reformers decry. What th e reformers fail to see is that the structure and dynamics of the educational system are actively forming and encouraging student preferences that run counter to the creatio n and sustenance of educational excellence. One might say that the system is creati ng status and wealth seekers and indifferent/hostile students. Excellence in educati on has nothing at all to do with the external goals of sustaining a competitive economy or materially enriching individuals. But that is something very difficult for those of u s caught up in our individualistic culture to understand. And it is certainly the cent ral defect of the educational reform movement. It leads to the incoherence of which we s poke. Indeed, excellence in education is not something that can fit into the fr amework of moral individualism at all.Educational Excellence and the Idea of a Public Goo dCentral to this understanding is the act of recogni zing that there are some kinds of goods that are irreducibly public goods—goods that cannot be privately assign ed to or appropriated by individuals alone. Alasdair MacInty re in After Virtue (1981) establishes this in his account of social practices and his dis tinction between "internal" and "external" goods. For MacIntyre, a practice is "... any coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human activity thr ough which goods internal to that form of activity are realized in the course of tryi ng to achieve those standards of excellence which are appropriate to, and partly definitive of that form of activity" (1981,


20 of 30p. 175). Examples are complex games, true professio ns, and, not least, the various arts and sciences. What is common to all of these is the fact that they each contain standards of excellence (norms) that define their correspondi ng activities and what it means to be a skillful participant in them. Moreover, they each r equire no mean effort to master (and typically require forms of apprenticeship); and in many cases they cannot fully be appreciated (or judged) except by those on the insi de of the practice. On the other hand, goods are external to a practice if they can be sec ured in some other fashion than through the practice itself. Status and wealth are obvious examples. Since external goods can be appropriated by and assigned to individuals, they a re "...characteristically objects of competition in which there must be losers as well a s winners" (MacIntyre, 1981, p. 178). And although internal goods are "...the outcome of competition to excel…it is characteristic of them that their achievement is a good for the whole community who participate in the practice" (MacIntyre, 1981, p. 1 78). In other words, they are not reducible to the good of particular individuals.The achievement of knowledge is one such example of an irreducible public good that benefits the community. And note that in the transm ission of knowledge through education, teachers do not give up something when s tudents come to understand. The economics of exchange relations do not apply here ( nor, as Green et al., 1980 and 1997, note, is knowledge subject to the economist's notio n of "decreasing marginal utility"). Now MacIntyre's account of practices allows us to e stablish exactly why the educational reform movement has a flawed and defective vision o f educational excellence. In understanding the practice of education as merely i nstrumental to satisfying certain desires (i.e., economic competitiveness or individu al social and economic well-being), they reduce educational benefits to external goods. But excellence in education can only be understood by reference to the public standards internal to the practice. (Note 19) In this way, pure educational benefits are not goods b ecause they satisfy individual preferences. They are goods because they are specif ied by the standards of excellence internal to the various forms of knowledge that we have achieved over time. They can be realized only by engaging (to a considerable degree ) in the practice of education in its own terms, by coming to see its point in and of its elf, and therefore only by submitting oneself to its discipline. (Note 20) But in thinking of educational benefits as merely t he means to satisfy aggregate or individual preferences, the educational reform move ment rules out the possibility of understanding education in its own light. In so doi ng, the policy makers necessarily fail to capture the very nature of educational excellenc e from the outset.The Practice of Education and Educational ReformIn taking the practice of education in its own ligh t seriously, we quickly begin to reconsider the meaning of questions such as "What i s in it for the student?" That question, we should note, arose primarily within th e framework of moral individualism. Instead, we need to think about educational reform in terms of the institutions whose role it is to sustain the virtues inherent in the p ractice of education. Again, if we look at the educational system today, we witness an institu tion that undermines, rather than sustains, the pursuit of educational excellence. In dividualist thinking simply lacks the capacity to understand how important the structures of society are in forming individual preferences in the first place. The normative princ iple that governs the link between the


21 of 30educational system and the social and economic syst em simply instantiates the norm that the road to riches is through high grades, rather t han emphasizing the intrinsic and extrinsic value of educational benefits. Instead of taking the interests of the status and wealth seeker and the indifferent/hostile student a s givens and then asking how we can transform their preferences into those of ideal stu dents, we should be asking a far different question (unless we want to continue to b lame educators in the interest of political mileage). For the fact remains that once formed, preferences are difficult to change. Rather, we should be asking: "What is it ab out the educational system that leads to the development of status and wealth seekers and indifferent/hostile students?" In other words, transforming the educational system may be the only way to transform individuals. Only then does the direction of real and meaningful educational reform—and the true meaning of educational excellen ce—become evident. This is the direction that has been urged by Green et al. (1980 & 1997, pp. 164 -168). It can be re-framed more directly here. Stated simply, we must weaken (if not abandon) the normative principle that differentially rewards edu cational attainment (grades, degrees, and diplomas, etc.). In other words, if there were no longer any major pay off economically and socially for educational attainmen t via the educational system per se, then education through the educational system could be unwaveringly pursued for the intrinsic and extrinsic value of pure educational b enefits. Moreover, if educational attainment in and of itself was less decisive for l ife chances, then the social and economic compulsion to complete, for example, high school would disappear. Simply consider what this would mean for the indifferent/h ostile student as well as, remarkably, for the drop out. By weakening (or even severing) t he connection between the distribution of surrogate educational benefits and the distribution of social and economic benefits, the motivation to pursue educational atta inment for purely defensive purposes (to avoid the current plight of the drop out) is go ne. The indifferent/hostile student would be given a real choice concerning the future. And many of them would exercise such a choice, at least for the time being, by drop ping out of the educational system. With the absence of unwilling and resentful student s, we should expect plummeting rates of school violence and the restoration of a h ealthy climate for learning. But with a higher percentage of school leavers in t he secondary school age population, the social and economic costs of dropping out are g reatly reduced. Dropping out is a personal disaster and social stigma when only very few drop out. In a world of many drop outs, employers cannot routinely screen for fo rmal, but often suspect, surrogate educational credentials.There is an equal implication for the status and we alth seekers. If the pursuit of educational credentials were no longer the primary route for "making it" in life, their reasons for remaining in school and engaging in man ipulative and deceptive behavior patterns simply collapse. If "making it" is truly t heir goal, then they would be free to expend their doubtless ingenuity outside the school s in other, hopefully more worthy, pursuits in striving to reach it.But with the educational system reduced, thusly, in size—retaining and, most importantly, easily re-admitting only those who wish to profit from the disciplined pursuit of knowledge, understanding, and callings—o ur society would be forced to understand that the demands of real and lasting edu cational reform greatly exceed the current, ephemeral attempts to tinker crudely and b lindly with the educational system as it exists. If we continue our present course, we ma y realize fleeting gains of a few points


22 of 30on test scores. (Note 21) Indeed, we may even be compelled to face the fact that there might be a multitude of pathways to make the transi tion from youth to productive and competent adulthood, only one of these through the educational system as such. (Note 22) Quite apart from the now fashionable so-called "mi ddle school philosophy" developed to deal with disaffected students, we may need to think about returning to the concept of the retired grammar school to provision all students with elementary/intermediate literacy, civic, scientific and mathematical knowledge and skills, along with basic computer skills. Upon comp letion, students might then choose between continuing in the academic educational syst em or opt out for more practical educational opportunities. Except for the few advan ced jobs and career categories—in relation to the entire population—it is questionabl e that we need hordes of high-tech people to run the economy. (Few of the status and w ealth seekers and indifferent/hostile students are currently destined for these positions anyhow. Indeed, more of them might actually end up in these positions by easily re-adm itting them into the educational system when they are more ready.)But the need to open new pathways (and in some case s re-open old ways) in the transition to adulthood would raise a host of issue s about how to structure strong educational and economic policies to foster differe nt kinds of practical learning experiences for youth directly in the workplace and other soci al settings. For it has never been the case that the young have little interest i n learning per se Curiosity and the thirst for learning are universally natural to the young. Rather, the problem is that we have compelled young people to pursue one kind of learning -scholastic/academic learning—for ever increasing amounts of time withou t regard for its perceived relevance to them. The clear and convincing result is now an educational system awash with status and wealth seekers and indifferent/hostile students not to mention their less rational counterparts. By creating multiple pathways to adul thood that feature practical, hands-on, experiential learning within a "real worl d" context, we can develop arenas that will do much to foster moral attachment, real learn ing, and a "conscience of craft" (Note 23) (for those currently disaffected with academic cul ture and practice). Rather than stigmatizing such academic "drop outs," a multiple pathway approach might be far more appealing to a majority of adolescents of all socia l classes (especially since it would not foreclose the option of dropping back into the acad emic educational system later on). (Note 24) It is true that many might not ever return to acad emics, as such. However, they most likely would end up with far more marketable s kills than our current crop of disaffected high school graduates. With such skills the nation's economic competitiveness might be heightened beyond the educ ational reformers' dreams. (There is more than a touch of irony in this.)Such extra-systemic educational reform would not be easy by any means. (Note 25) Indeed, it would require the creation of a public c onsciousness that education -in all of its forms and throughout a lifetime -must be seen to be a society-wide responsibility, not just the currently, and mainly age-segregated i nstitution of schooling. The educational system, if allowed, can easily succeed in the pursuit of true educational excellence if its mission is appropriately construe d as the producer, guardian and transmitter of fundamental cultural and scientific understanding. It cannot, however, be all things to all people as we now pressure it to b e. For far from achieving continuing competitiveness in the world -so far an event tha t has as much to do with luck, fair-enough economic design, strategic collapse in the old Soviet Union, and immigration -the current spate of educational ref orms will do little to move us truly


23 of 30ahead on the road to educational excellence. And th at is the ultimate lesson to be learned from raising the question of the student in educati onal reform.Notes 1 The inelegant, but descriptively accurate, term "st udenting" was originally introduced by Gary D Fenstermacher (1986) in "Philosophy of Re search on Teaching. It refers to those activities of the student often necessary for student achievement. 2 We believe that the following sketch of an "ideal" student is widely held, but our subsequent arguments do not rely on its being wides pread. 3 This view paraphrases that of Paul H. Hirst in his justly famous essay, "Liberal Education and the Nature of Knowledge" (1974). Howa rd Gardner's The Disciplined Mind (1999) gives a related formulation. 4 Hirst, Ibid. 5 Thomas F. Green (1999) in Voices: The Educational Formation of Conscience explicates the major difference between what he cal ls strong and weak normation. In this instance, ideal students become strongly norme d to the standards of excellence in education (and to the academic purpose of schools in so far as schools support these standards). Indifferent students, as we shall see, are neither strongly normed to the standards of excellence in education nor to schools though they may be compliant with school rules and routines (weak normation). Hostile students are neither strongly nor weakly normed to the standards of educational excel lence or the schools. Indeed, they tend to be defiant of both. 6 Steinberg, et al. in Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do (1996) studied 20,000 teenagers and their families in nine different communities over a ten year period. From a psycholo gist's point of view, he examined the "engagement" of young people in schools (with engagement" defined as "the degree to which students are psychologically "connected" t o what is going on in their classes" (p. 15).) In his sample, he discovered that around 40% of the teenagers from all social classes were "disengaged" (p. 67). While there are strong reasons to prefer Green's (op. cit.) notion of strong and weak normation in identi fying types of students and their motivations, Steinberg's "disengaged student" may s erve as a proxy to our indifferent/hostile types of students. We also take strong exception to Steinberg's recommendations for "re-engaging" students. Steinbe rg's psychological framework also fails to mark out how students who are disengaged m ight be acting quite rationally (from their point of view) in the educational system. Acc ordingly, he omits any mention of a connection among rationality, leading a good life, and avoiding harm. 7 See Ericson & Ellett (1990) "Taking Student Respons ibility Seriously." 8 Ibid. 9 Postman (1995) in The End of Education strongly takes to task the current economic


24 of 30rationale for public education and calls for a new, far more noble, "metaphysics" of education. 10 This section is strongly grounded in the work of Gr een et al. (1980 & 1997), Predicting the Behavior of the Educational System, especially Ch. 6. 11 See Martin Trow's (1961) classic, "The Second Trans formation of American Secondary Education.". 12 This use of the term "surrogate" acknowledges that grades, for example, are neither interval-ratio scales nor even ordinal scales. Thei r "sloppiness" as scales is what makes them an efficient medium of exchange. 13 The United States, we should note, is far from a pe rfect educationally-based meritocracy. Typical of capitalist economies, the U .S. legitimates social and economic inequalities based on personal luck, perseverance, and even such things as a winning personality. Increasingly, however, formal educatio nal attainment governs entrance into career and earnings networks and hierarchies. 14 The supporting arguments for regarding the normativ e principle as a principle that legitimates subsequent inequalities in social and e conomic goods among persons is given in detail in Green et al. (1980 & 1997), pp. 42–45. The point to grasp is that the relation between (surrogate) educational benefits a nd non-educational social and ecconomic benefits is not merely a strong, positive (causal) one, but also is a justified or authorized one in our society. 15 The popularity of Scholastic Assessment Test coachi ng firms, such as the Princeton Review and Kaplan, is a testament to this widesprea d attitude. They typically guarantee higher SAT scores through emphasis on test taking s kills and strategies, not the acquisition of knowledge and understanding. 16 Again, see Steinberg (1996), op. cit., whose survey evidence comes closest to providing this. 17 See, for example, Howard S. Becker (1989), "A Schoo l is a Lousy Place to Learn Anything." 18 This phrase headlined The Nation at Risk report (Gardner, et al., 1983). The rhetoric places education—and its support—on a par with nati onal defense in terms of national importance. As Green et al. (op. cit.,.,pp. 147 1 56 ) point out, this is the strongest possible appeal for the support of the educational system. 19 Such standards of excellence internal to education are not to be confused with the generally woeful, rarely even rationalized and cert ainly not justified, state educational standards of the educational reform movement. 20 As opposed to the individualist"s identification of the good life with the satisfaction


25 of 30of private preferences, more communitarian-type vie ws from Aristotle to MacIntyre and Green locate the good life in the realization of ir reducibly public goods embedded within irreducibly social practices. For such views happin ess is the zestful exercising of basic human capacities (e.g., intelligence or inventivene ss) in the pursuit or cultivation of the kinds of excellences appropriate to a practice of a given kind. Though the excellences of building a common world, building a family life, or of education require different kinds of activities or performances, the performance "com manded," as it were, in each is a kind of virtuosity. Thus, the goodness or badness o f the performance is a matter of objective evaluation in relation to the standards of excelle nce that are definitive of the communally sustained practice.This is not to reject the place and appropriateness of external goods such as wealth or status in a full life. For these may result from a life devoted to the pursuit of excellence. Rather, it is simply to note that external goods ca nnot be the aim of the good life on communitarian grounds.And again, we should stress, while individualism un derstands society as just instrumental to the satisfaction of individual pref erences, communitarians see society as essential. For even while in competition to excel, communitarians understand that internalization of the norms of the practice by all who compete is necessary to sustain its flourishing existence. (This is why truth, courage, and honesty are central virtues to most practices. Dishonesty and bad faith may often be th e quickest route to fame and fortune, but they undermine the deep layer of social solidar ity that forms the foundation of any practice.) 21 The recent Rand study (Grissmer et al., 2000) sugge sts that heavy-handed accountability measures can squeeze out some gains, after all. But even here, the data reporting of some states, such as Texas, is suspect See, for example, Linda Darling-Hammond (1999, p. 3). 22 The Coleman Report on youth in transition, though n ow long-forgotten, remains the most serious and thought-provoking study in alterna tives to the current regimen of growing up in America. It needs to be re-visited. S ee James S. Coleman (1974). 23 See Green (1999), op. cit. Such settings, in other words, would be able to foster strong normation and other attachments necessary fo r leading a good and productive life. Weak normation (at best), anomie, and defiance are currently the phenomenological states of the indifferent/hostile students in our s chools. 24 In some ways our view is compatible with the views of Howard Gardner, "Getting There," The Disciplined Mind, pp. 214– 240. We and Gardner both advocate the end of the monolithic educational system. For even schools as such, might have multiple pathways as is common in Scandinavia, Germany, othe r parts of Europe, and Japan. (Note that many of these societies are far more ega litarian than our own.) But Gardner only sees the high technology pathway of Bill Gates Louis Gerstner, and others. Gardner fails to consider the possibility and viabi lity of non-school pathways that would enable students to enter the career market in a var iety of ways. But even if restricted to schools, a multiple pathway approach would have dis tinct advantages. For the differing "exit grades" of each would inhibit the continued e xistence of a common coinage


26 of 30(medium of exchange) as represented by the current formal domination of the Carnegie Unit system and informal, but real, pressure exerte d by colleges and universities to specify the intermediate and high school curriculum in a manner to meet their own needs. 25 For example, it may even require an examination and restructuring of the reward schedules for certain learned professions such as m edicine and law. Like the academic profession (some of whose sub-specialties deserve s imilar attention), they already command considerable social respect. But when coupl ed with relatively high economic pay-off, their probability of attracting the strong attention of the status and wealth seeker escalates enormously. The proliferation of "profess ional ethics" courses in professional schools is a testament to the fact that the high pr ofessions are in imperiled in this way. For the aim of status and wealth seekers is to prof it them first and foremost, and only incidentally serve their fellow human beings.ReferencesBecker, Howard S. (1986). "A School is a Lousy Plac e to Learn Anything in." In Becker"s Doing Things Together. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, pp. 173–190.Brandt, Richard B. (1979). A Theory of the Good and Right. Oxford: Clarendon Press, Bruner, Jerome (1960). The Process of Education. Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T. Press. Coleman, James S. (1974). Youth: Transition to Adulthood. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Darling-Hammond, Linda (1995). Performance-Based Assessment and Educational Equity." In A.C. Ornstein and L.S. Behar (Eds.) Contemporary Issues in Curriculum. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, pp. 382–402.Darling-Hammond, Linda (10/13/1999). Reforming Teac her Preparation and Licensing: Debating the Evidence. Teachers College Record. Available at; I.D. #10419. .Ericson, David P. and Frederick S. Ellett, Jr. (198 7). Teacher Accountability and the Causal Theory of Teaching." Educational Theory, 37 (3), 277–293. Ericson, David P. and Frederick S. Ellett, Jr. (199 0). Taking Student Responsibility Seriously." Educational Researcher, 19 No. 3, December 1990, 3–10. Fenstermacher, Gary D (1986). Philosophy of Resea rch on Teaching." In Merlin O. Wittrock (Ed.). Handbook of Research on Teaching. 3rd edition, pp. 37-49. New York: Macmillan.Finn, Chester, Diane Ravitch, and Paul Roberts (198 5). Challenges for the Humanities. New York: Holmes-Meier.Gardner, David P. et al. National Commission on Exc ellence in Education (1983). A Nation at Risk: Imperative For Educational Reform. Washington, D.C., Government


27 of 30Printing Office.Gardner, Howard (1999). "Getting There." In Gardner "s The Disciplined Mind. New York: Simon & Shuster, pp. 214–240.Green, Thomas F. with David P. Ericson and Robert H Seidman (1980, first published). Predicting the Behavior of the Educational System. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. Republished in 1997 in Classics in Education Series New York: Educator"s International Press.Green, Thomas F. (1999). Voices: The Educational Formation of Conscience. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.Grissmer, David, Ann Flanigan, Jennifer Kawata, and Stephanie Williamson (2000). Improving Student Achievement: What NAEP Test Score s Tell Us. Santa Monica,CA: The Rand Corporation.Hirst, Paul H. (1974). "Liberal Education and the N ature of Knowledge." In R. F. Dearden, P.H. Hirst, and R.S. Peters (Eds.), Education and the Development of Reason. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul MacIntyre, Alaisdair (1981; 1984, 2nd Edition). After Virtue. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.Parfit, David (1984). Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Popham, W. James (2001). The Truth about Testing. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.Postman, Neil (1995). The End of Education: Redefining the Value of Schoo l. New York: Knopf.Rodman, B. (1986). "Rating Teachers on Students" Te st Scores Sparks Furor, Legal Action in St. Louis." Education Week, 6, (2). Steinberg, Laurence with B. Bradford Brown and Sanf ord M. Dornbusch (1996). Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and Wha t Parents Need to Do. New York: Simon & Shuster.Stoutland, Frederick (1990). "Self and Society in t he Claims of Individualism." Studies in Philosophy and Education, 10, No. 1, 105–138. Thurow, Lester (1975). Generating Inequality. New York: Basic Books. Tocqueville, Alexis de (1935 & 1969; first publishe d in 1835). Democracy in America. Translated by G. Lawrence. Edited by J.P. Mayer. Ne w York: Doubleday Trow, Martin (1961). "The Second Transformation of American Secondary Education." International Journal of Comparative Sociology, 2, 144–;166.About the Authors


28 of 30 David P. Ericson, Ph.D.Department of Educational FoundationsCollege of EducationUniversity of Hawai`i at Manoa1776 University AvenueHonolulu, HI 96817Phone: (808) 956-4243Fax: (808) 956-9100Email: Frederick S. Ellett, Jr.Faculty of EducationUniversity of Western OntarioLondon, Ontario N6G 1G7CanadaPhone: (519) 679-2111Email: David P. Ericson is a Professor in and Chair of the Department of Educational Foundations at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Studies in Philosophy of Education and currently serves on the policy research board for the Hawai`i Educational Policy Center. Frederick S. Ellett is an Associate Professor of Philosophy of Education on the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario. He teaches in the preservice teacher educa tion program and the graduate program in philosophy of education, policy analysis and research methods. Beyond their many independent contributions to the field of educ ation, they began an active collaboration while they were together on the facul ty of the Graduate School of Education at UCLA from 1979—1989. In education, the y have collaborated on numerous articles published in, among others, Educational Theory, Teachers College Record, Paideusis, Proceedings of the Philosophy of Education Society, and Educational Researcher. Their strong interest in the logic of causal infere nce in assessing program and policy effects have led them to publish in such philosophy journals as Synthese, Nous, and Pacific Philosophical Quarterly as well as the social science research methodology journal Quality and Quantity. They are currently working together on several books in both education and the philosophy of the social sciences.Copyright 2002 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 8 5287-2411. The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: .EPAA Editorial Board


29 of 30 Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin Greg Camilli Rutgers University John Covaleskie Northern Michigan University Alan Davis University of Colorado, Denver Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Richard Garlikov Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Alison I. Griffith York University Arlen Gullickson Western Michigan University Ernest R. House University of Colorado Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Calgary Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Green Mountain College Dewayne Matthews Education Commission of the States William McInerney Purdue University Mary McKeown-Moak MGT of America (Austin, TX) Les McLean University of Toronto Susan Bobbitt Nolen University of Washington Anne L. Pemberton Hugh G. Petrie SUNY Buffalo Richard C. Richardson New York University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Dennis Sayers California State University—Stanislaus Jay D. Scribner University of Texas at Austin Michael Scriven Robert E. Stake University of Illinois—UC Robert Stonehill U.S. Department of Education David D. Williams Brigham Young University EPAA Spanish Language Editorial BoardAssociate Editor for Spanish Language Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico Adrin Acosta (Mxico) Universidad de J. Flix Angulo Rasco (Spain) Universidad de


30 of 30 Teresa Bracho (Mxico) Centro de Investigacin y DocenciaEconmica-CIDEbracho Alejandro Canales (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma Ursula Casanova (U.S.A.) Arizona State Jos Contreras Domingo Universitat de Barcelona Erwin Epstein (U.S.A.) Loyola University of Josu Gonzlez (U.S.A.) Arizona State Rollin Kent (Mxico)Departamento de InvestigacinEducativa-DIE/ Mara Beatriz Luce (Brazil)Universidad Federal de Rio Grande do Sul-UFRGSlucemb@orion.ufrgs.brJavier Mendoza Rojas (Mxico)Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicojaviermr@servidor.unam.mxMarcela Mollis (Argentina)Universidad de Buenos Humberto Muoz Garca (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicohumberto@servidor.unam.mxAngel Ignacio Prez Gmez (Spain)Universidad de Daniel Schugurensky (Argentina-Canad)OISE/UT, Simon Schwartzman (Brazil)Fundao Instituto Brasileiro e Geografiae Estatstica Jurjo Torres Santom (Spain)Universidad de A Carlos Alberto Torres (U.S.A.)University of California, Los

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