Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Hard Problems in Education

A conference was held last week at Harvard seeking to trace out the "hard problems" in the social sciences, following after David Hilbert's famous ranking of the hard problems in mathematics.

I thought it might be interesting to talk about what we think the hard problems in education are. Note that many of the problems Hilbert came up with eventually proved to be unsolvable.

I have two, that will surprise no one who has been reading.

    1. How can schooling contribute significantly to the democratic empowerment of marginalized students?

    2. How can we eliminate the relationship between the efficacy of schools and the socioeconomic status of the communities they serve?

Note that I refer to "schooling" not "education." Many of our key problems are less "educational" than institutional, related to a particular kind of institutional structure that produces particular effects and limitations.

Of course, each question contains assumptions about what the "real" problem is. (E.g., if we could change the socioeconomic status of communities, the coupling problem would disappear.)

I know many of us are off to AERA (I'm not going) or otherwise buried by the end of the semester, so I listed this as the "monthly forum" to allow people to easily return to it if they are interested.

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