One of my first scholarly publications, “A new honesty in education—Positivist measures in a postmodern world,” included the 1998 governor’s race in South Carolina between David Beasley (incumbent Republican) and Jim Hodges (Democrat) in a solidly Republican state.
While the governorship that election shifted to Hodges, mostly because of the wedge issue of gambling in SC, I noted that both candidates and political parties ran on a dishonest but effective platform—SC education was at the bottom in the U.S. In fact, both candidates had billboards lambasting the state’s education ranking that were virtually indistinguishable except for the candidate information.
In 2022, it is important to highlight that SC was popularly and politically identified in crisis and need of reform after two decades of crisis (A Nation at Risk under Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s) and a series of standards and high-stakes testing reform.
I entered education in 1984, right after then-Governor Richard Riley had pushed SC as one of the first adopters into the accountability movement.
As a high school teacher throughout the 1980s and 1990s, I watched and listened as SC political leaders called for modeling SC education policy, standards, and testing on Florida and Virginia; despite its bombastic libertarian proclamations, SC is copy-cat state when it comes to education policy.
And therein lies the problem.
SC remains trapped in a cycle of education crisis, education faddism, and education boondoggles.
After those two decades following A Nation at Risk, SC once again doubled down on reform and accountability during the No Child Behind Era (NCLB) under George W. Bush, and then, stumbled into the Obama era reforms—value-added methods for teacher evaluation, charter schools, and (yes) Common Core.
That Obama/Common Core era is a perfect example of educational dysfunction in SC.
SC rushed to adopt Common Core and the related testing (fadism), purchased teaching and learning materials labeled as Common Core aligned (boondoggle), and then while teachers were being trained and the entire educational system was transitioning to the new standards, SC dropped Common Core (because conservatives falsely labeled the movement as Obama’s although the standards came form the National Governor’s Association and were strongly bipartisan).
This wasteful nonsense was almost entirely partisan politics and had little to do with teaching and learning.
So as we watch 2022 slip into 2023, SC remains trapped in the crisis > fadism > boondoggle cycle that has been demonstrated to fail education since the early 1980s.
The accountability movement phase 1 (mostly a state-level movement) after A Nation at Risk was declared a failure and lead to the accountability movement phase 2 that pivoted on NCLB (and included federal policy mandating “scientifically based” teaching and materials).
About another 20 years after phase 2, we are once again screaming crisis, including a(nother) reading crisis and the really ugly anti-CRT/book banning movements (see how all of these are related historically).
SC has been quick to pass copy-cat reading legislation (see HERE and HERE) for about a decade, and the current budget includes millions and millions of dollars for “science of reading” policy, training, and materials (sound familiar to those who watched the Common Core disaster?).
As one specific example, SC like many other states is simultaneously (again) calling for limiting everything in education to “scientific” while investing huge amounts of tax dollars to non-scientific boondoggles (see here about LETRS).
Education is an incredibly profitable market in the U.S., and the only people who have benefitted from 40 years of constant crisis > reform are those who repeatedly rebrand educational materials to match the fad-du-jour.
The current reading crisis and curriculum crisis in SC and across the U.S. are marketing and political scams—all faddism and boondoggles.
SC does not have a reading crisis, and does not have a CRT crisis.
The real educational problems in SC (and throughout the U.S.) are once again being ignored—poverty, racism, and inequity in both the lives of children and citizens as well as in our schools.
Affluent children continue to have the best access to learning while marginalized and vulnerable children are neglected, ignored, or pushed into the most limited and limiting educational contexts (such as test-prep).
SC is not experiencing a new or unique educational crisis, but we are suffering from a historical and current reality that is reflected in our educational system—a lack of political will.
Crisis, fadism, and boondoggles are the playground of political leaders and education marketers who reap the rewards of misinformation, misdirection, and finding ourselves in a hole while continuing to dig.