chapter  5
17 Pages

Community organizing for educational change: Past illusions, future prospects

WithDENNIS SHIRLEY

John Stuart Mill once remarked of education that ‘of all the many-sided subjects, it is the one which has the greatest number of sides’ (Mill, 1931: 32). We are perhaps well-advised to recall this intrinsic polyvalence of education in times such as our own, when it can appear to readers of the daily newspapers that all that really matters in education can be compressed into pupil test score results. Important as those testing data may be, an overestimation of their salience could lead one to miss out on a number of other critical social dynamics that drive contemporary educational change. Technological innovations, multicultural education, and language policies are all likely to provoke continual debates, for example, regardless of the extent to which they raise or depress test score results. The reason for this, it would appear, is that education ultimately cannot be collapsed into instrumental means, but rather entails an inextricably philosophical core that relates not only to the ends of education, but to the very wishes and dreams we aspire for in life itself. As long as this is the case – and I see no reason to think this will ever change – we would perhaps do well to remind ourselves that the ends of education are not likely to be determined through test score data alone, and that such ends can only be addressed and enacted through sustained inquiry, debate, and refl ection in the public realm.