Although Gerald Bracey and Gerald Holton exposed A Nation at Risk many years ago, James Harvey calling the Reagan-era “report” “gaslighting” is possibly the best way to frame the manufactured crisis that set off five decades of misguided education reform in the US.
The crisis rhetoric of A Nation at Risk has become the norm for how media covers education, how the public perceives public education (mostly “other people’s schools”), and how politicians gain political points.
Harvey notes: “One of the tragedies around ‘A Nation at Risk’ was not simply that it misdiagnosed the problem and put forth ersatz solutions, but that it refused to face up to the financial implications of its argument.”
The elements of that crisis approach to education include the following:
- Teachers are failing students.
- Teacher education is failing teachers and students.
- Public education is failing.
- But this “miracle” school is doing the right thing!
As many scholars have noted, these claims are baseless but made primarily as a political move to dismantle public education and teacher education (and also teachers unions).
The media has now spoken directly into that conservative machine with the “science of reading” (SOR) movement that follows the tired and destructive pattern begun under Reagan in the 1980s.
For example, there is now a clear merging of the SOR movement and conservative politics as well as education market interests—from charter schools to the Bushes and Republican governors:
What is very disturbing is that the false claims of crisis and the misguided policy solutions being passed in almost every state now were already exposed twenty years ago by Richard J. Meyer’s Captives of the Script: Killing Us Softly with Phonics:
The SOR movement is yet more teacher bashing and school bashing, serving the conservative anti-school agenda of Republicans and market interests that feed off our public schools.
This has never been about reading.
This has never been about serving the needs of children.
This is more partisan politics; this is about conservative ideology at the expense of children, teachers, and public education.
Update May 24, 2023
From Texas, more pieces to the puzzle:
‘Woke’ filter? Texas teachers face less creative control under pair of bills