Question: Are you satisfied with the political discourse on education in this election year?
Joel Klein: I’m not satisfied with the current discussion on public education. Whether you wanna call it a Marshal Plan, the fact of the matter is we have racial and ethnic achievement gaps that have bedeviled this country for as far back as anybody can remember. And small bore reforms are not going to remediate that. Feel good proposals won’t change that. We’ve had those for a long time.
What it’s going to take is some very serious restructuring, rethinking and real leadership. Second of all we have an increasing challenge vis a vis the global environment. I was on a group that came out with a book called “Tough choices for Tough Times” and that did the kind of global comparison, the competitiveness challenges that we face.
If you look at just recently there was a test of 15 year olds throughout the world, in math and in science, and America came in like 21st and 25th out of 30 OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries. And that’s not a place where we can be comfortable. In math, in science, in engineering, in technology--we are not doing the kind of work that we need to do in transforming the educational process to a 21st century process. We’re not doing the work we need.
So, for a whole host of reasons, I would like to see a debate that started to focus in a much, much more aggressive way with the nature of the challenges. They make us uncomfortable but focus on the real nature of the challenges. Why is it that our K-12 education system has not been doing the work that everybody thinks we need to do and come up with robust, meaningful, if difficult and challenging, and sometimes even costly, new measures to address the nature of the problem that I think is out there.