These point-counterpoint posts serve well to illustrate the essential difference between Social Context Reformers, represented by Cody, and “No Excuses” Reformers, represented by the GF:
“No Excuses” Reformers insist that the source of success and failure lies in each child and each teacher, requiring only the adequate level of effort to rise out of the circumstances not of her/his making. As well, “No Excuses” Reformers remain committed to addressing poverty solely or primarily through education, viewed as an opportunity offered each child and within which…effort will result in success.
Social Context Reformers have concluded that the source of success and failure lies primarily in the social and political forces that govern our lives. By acknowledging social privilege and inequity, Social Context Reformers are calling for education reform within a larger plan to reform social inequity—such as access to health care, food security, higher employment along with better wages and job security.
As well, the content and language in Cody’s and the GF’s blogs offer another layer for understanding the education reform debate—the tension between ideology and evidence.
The most distinct example of that tension came at the end of the five-part exchange when Irvin Scott included a preface to the final GF entry, making this charge against Cody, and indirectly all Social Context Reformers:
Simply, I believe all children can learn. I believe low-income children of color can learn when they have great teachers who believe in them, and treat them with the same passion, enthusiasm and intellectual rigor that they would treat their own children. And I believe in the skill and will of teachers, provided they are given the opportunity to teach, learn and lead as true professionals. I believe in John Dewey’s insight that learning in the process of living is the deepest form of freedom. In a nation that aspires to democracy, that’s what education is primarily for: the cultivation of freedom within society.
I want to believe that Mr. Cody believes this same truth about students, yet in each post he carefully marshals an assortment of facts and statistics which seems to suggest that he believes that children living in poverty cannot learn and that until the status quo changes we should lower our expectations for poor children.
Scott, on behalf of the GF and “No Excuses” Reformers, clearly outlines the ideological, and thus not evidence-based, positioning that is both at the heart of the “No Excuses” Reform movement and why that narrative is more effective than the evidence-based positions of Social Context Reformers: “No Excuses” Reformers champion an enduring slogan “Poverty is not destiny.”
As the U.S. enters the second decade of the twenty-first century, then, is poverty destiny? It is the answer to that question that is central to which education reform agenda the U.S. should embrace.