Skeptically Optimistic

| January 13, 2017

The hat.

The slogan is deeply judgmental yet optimistic: “Make America Great Again.” Until now, a week away from the inauguration, I’ve mostly turned a blind eye to it. But there it is, now firmly lodged in our collective imagination.

There is some truth in it. K-12 education education in America isn’t “great.” But it never really was, broadly speaking. Americans are often an optimistic bunch, however, and we’ve invested a great deal in public education over the past century. Have we seen this investment pay off? Slowly, steadily, I think we have, though American education remains firmly middling compared to other (albeit smaller) countries.

So, with respect to education at least, we can certainly do a lot better. But the slogan “MAGA” is unsettling because it harkens back to a history that is no longer a good yardstick for measuring our progress. America has changed. The world has changed. We’re more inclusive and diverse now. Many of our classrooms are more progressive now, and we’re trying to make progress in many areas at once (link to the “Guiding Vision and Definition of Principles of the Women’s March on Washington).

But I’m skeptically optimistic about education.

I think we’re going to see education get worse before it gets better—this will be true for most aspects of American life over the next 4 years, unless you’re lucky enough to be a billionaire (… or vested in Russia’s political regime?). With Republican support for vouchers and other options that put public money into private hands, it looks like a federal investment in public education will be on a swift decline.

But after that—when the jobs don’t really come back, and the money doesn’t really end up in the pockets of most Americans—I think Americans will wise up to the false promises, the angry dismissals, and get-fixed-quick schemes and realize that education is worth the investment and worth the wait.

I hope we have the time. I hope we have the patience.

What do you think?