Harvard Yard, I’m reminded of the fact that the United States has long
had a deep commitment to education. By the middle of the 20th century,
it had the finest educational system in the world. I’m Paul Peterson. I’m the Director of the Education
Policy and Governance Program at Harvard University. About 50 years ago, US
schools began to stagnate. Recent assessments of
international standards revealed that American
students, at the age of 15, have fallen well behind
the performance of students in many other developed countries in the
subjects of math, reading, and science. Clearly, the US educational
system needs to do better by its next generation of students
so that they can perform effectively in the world economy
of the 21st century. Saving schools is a
four course sequence. In these first course, the history
and politics of US education, we looked at four major developments–
progressive movement, desegregation, legalization of the schools,
and collective bargaining. In each case, we visit the places
where these ideas were spawned and look at the personalities who helped
change the shape of American education. We find that although many of these
events had salutary consequences, there were unforeseen,
unanticipated results as well. Creating complications for parents,
students, teachers, and administrators, that those who pursue these
new goals never realized. In course two, we look at proposals
to reform the teaching profession. In the third course, we look at
efforts to hold schools accountable. In the fourth course,
we look at proposals to give families more school choices. In all four courses we are asking
leading practitioners and experts the join us to discuss why we have
headed in the direction we are going, and what steps need to
be taken in the future? We are not going to
find any silver bullets. There are no easy answers to the
problems the US education system faces, just as there is no
simple explanation for why we have the schools that exist today. I hope you will join me in
this exploration of the US educational system, putting together
the pieces that explain American schools today. [MUSIC PLAYING]