It appears that way on the surface. There has always been a massive amount of talk about educational reform that fails to materialize as real changes. Yet there have been substantive changes from one room school houses and books called "grammars". The changes in support technologies are the most obvious successful reforms.
Why does so much talk of educational reform go unheeded?
Talk about reforms does not also talk about forms. The reform-minded voices "talk at" instead of "talk with" people who comprise the existing forms of education. The forms are disregarded, diminished or disputed while speaking of reforms. The resisting of status quo sends clear messages to educational system to defend, entrench and stagnate themselves.
How can "talk of change" not pose a threat to the status quo?
By speaking the language of the those "who need to be reformed". By understanding why the forms are so persistent, resilient and defiant of reforms. By validating others' faith, reliance and enduring commitments to those forms.
What language do the proponents of existing forms speak?
Most embrace a bureaucratic mindset because most educational systems takes the form of large bureaucracies. Talk of educational reform is unintelligible because education is only given lip-service within the vast policy-driven hierarchies.
How can we speak their language and get on their wavelength?
By learning a different grammar that organizes the opportunities for reform very differently from our own frames of reference. Here's a sample of the outlook of any "keeper of the existing forms":
- Talk of change in a student's experience or a teacher's conduct has to be multiplied by the number of students in the system and quantified to put it into the budget. Bureaucracies exist because the number of people served is staggeringly large.
- Beneficial effects and outcomes from reforms has to be enforced as something everyone will get across the board to avoid favoritism, elitism or discrimination. Exceptional improvements is asking for grievances to be filed and litigation to be pursued by injured claimants in high-profile cases (because bureaucracies are huge and publicized).
- A reform in pedagogy has to be translated into either an executive order, a policy change or a new law from the state or federal legislature. Individuals cannot initiate reforms without getting punished for being illegal, defiant or non-compliant.
- Changes in services delivered has to be accomplished by maintaining constituencies, loyalties, and reputations. Otherwise, talk of reforms is asking beneficiaries of the existing form to sabotage their long term investments and basis for future rewards from the system.
- Reforms will generate: new documents to be kept on file, paperwork that preempts productive work and reporting procedures necessitating more compliance. This added burden only works if it's not going to get people into more embarrassing situations and ugly confrontations.