In my Twitter timeline yesterday, I saw a number of people I follow either delighted or highly irritated by David Kirp’s fairly general op-ed yesterday, Teaching Is Not a Business. On the irritated front was Rick Hess:
Kirp's made a lucrative habit of fatuous "reform bad" pablum he spouts in new NYT piece. "Teaching Is Not a Business" http://t.co/EjFnPxUzQ0
— Frederick M. Hess (@rickhess99) August 17, 2014
And a few hours later, there was a rebuttal by Neerav Kingsland, who was less irritated but definitely in disagreement.
Here’s the funny thing: Kirp’s op-ed is general, arguing that unspecified reformers wanted schools to be run like businesses, and that impulse interferes with personal connections in education. While Kingsland is correct that the op-ed used romantic rhetoric about schooling, the most remarkable fact about the piece is that it was published at all in the New York Times. There is no hook to current events, nothing particularly sharp about the rhetoric or the claims. With a few sentences changed, this could have appeared five years ago, possibly ten, and it would have fit those times as well as today.
Given the lack of fire in the piece–Kirp didn’t even use the term corporate reform–I am not sure why there was so much energy devoted to either praise or criticism. In many ways it’s like the various op-eds you can find by Jeb Bush or Tom Vander Ark, sloppy in some way and also probably destined to sink beneath the waves no matter what you think of it. There are a lot of things going on in education, and you pick Kirp’s op-ed? I don’t want to micromanage anyone’s time but my own; on the other hand, Kirp didn’t write world-changing rhetoric. And, if you don’t mind my reminding you, there are far more weighty things to upset or worry you: to pick a few, police conduct in Ferguson, the war between Hamas and Israel, ISIS, Argentine’s default, and Russia-Ukraine tensions.