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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Twenty-Seven: David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle, The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools (1995)

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TWENTY-SEVEN

David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle, The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools (1995)

Mark Garrison

Introduction

Berliner and Biddle’s The Manufactured Crisis (1995) was published during a critical point in the contemporary battle over how problems of public education are framed, understood and addressed in both public and academic discourse. Central to this turning point was not simply a continuation of the historic debate over the proper organizing focus of public education—vocational, college preparation, or comprehensive—or the connection of this focus to forms of inequality, but whether public schools should continue to be public. By the mid-1990s the now-dominant tendency of policy elites framing education narrowly in service of economic ends was also in full swing, with test scores and related data becoming prominent in discussions about the nature and functioning of American education. This chapter summarizes The Manufactured Crisis (TMC), understanding it as a response to this state of affairs, and examines its significance since its first publication 20 years ago.

While much of the critical narrative surrounding TMC focused on the efficacy of its claims—is there really no achievement crisis?—less attention has been paid to the significance of the thesis of a manufactured crisis, and how this thesis portends limited understanding of the objective nature of institutional failure. While the accuracy of the authors’ claims about student achievement are reviewed,...

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