by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
To see what conservative educational priorities were truly put aside in the era of the reform coalition, we would have to really put ourselves outside the accountability and achievement framework and remind ourselves that the emphasis on accountability was itself a concession of sorts. What really couldn’t be talked about in these decades was the role of schooling in the molding of the souls of rising citizens—rather than just the minds of future workers. Both civic education and character education were sometimes pushed to the side for the sake of more technocratic notions of the purpose of schooling, notions more in line with the economic logic of our meritocracy but less in line with the civic ideals underlying our republic.
If we are really to look beyond the framework of the achievement-scores agenda, and if we want to consider what conservatives can bring to the table now that has for too long been forgotten, we would need to look not just to the conservative wing of the technocratic reform coalition, but to the core of conservative thought itself, and the essential role it ascribes to culture, to moral formation, and therefore to education more fully understood. …
… Regardless of how much intellectual and material progress a society may make, every new child entering that society will still join it with essentially the same native intellectual and biological equipment as any other child born in any other society at any other time in the history of the human race. Raising such children to the level of their societies is a prerequisite for any form of progress. But a failure to initiate the next generation of children into the ways of our civilization would not only delay or derail innovation, it would put into question the very continuity of that civilization. This is a crucial reason why conservatives care so deeply about culture.