The Manufactured Crisis: "Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America's Public Schools"
David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle
Book Review by Darold Morgan
Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Reading, MA, 1995 o $25.00
The Manufactured Crisis is a book guaranteed to raise your hackles. Written by men who are angry, this anger comes through loud and clear. For those deeply concerned about the right-wing advocacy of the voucher concept for public education, here is factual, immensely helpful material to counter this potentially disastrous approach that could end public school education as we know it. The authors dismiss the deeply held convictions of extreme conservatives as part of the problem which public education faces.
A suggested approach to this volatile volume is to read it and come to your own conclusions. Read it with an open mind. There is no mincing of words. There is a crisis in public education issues.
As all of us know, for decades the media has had a feeding frenzy about any negative news regarding public schools. They have played up poor test scores, crime and violence on inner city school grounds and in classrooms, inadequate parental involvement, political and bureaucratic intrusion in the educational process and the erosion of religious influences so as to generate enough reactions for the general public to give a massive failing grade to the entire national public school systems. The authors demonstrate that much of this is myth and a fraud.
What these authors have done is to assemble an impressive mass of evidence to buttress their conviction that this manufactured crisis is a not-so-subtle effort on the part of a lot of private and parochial school partisans, their politician accomplices, and religious-right leaders to discredit public schools. The major reason for this is to push government financing for private schools which they claim could do a better job of educating children.
Using a series of objective research studies in education from a wide variety of sources, the authors zero in on what they declare to be both a myth and fraud. Public schools are doing a far better job than they are given credit for. The references they quote speak convincingly to their contention that public school education does not deserve the reckless charges brought against it. Their research strongly supports their premise.
One excellent example of their research comes in their extensive documentation on these various myths. One of the most persistent myths is that "American Public Schools and Textbooks No Longer Promote Moral Values." They quote at length from a study issued by Baylor University's Center for Christian Education. The conclusion is basic: "We know of no evidence to support the myth that values have disappeared from America's public schools or from textbooks."
One hundred and fourteen pages in the book are devoted to these myths. Is this confusing situation the result of increased school and property taxes, or the huge task of educating a mushrooming ethnic population, or from the pressure for high school students to have the test scores to enter college, or the involvement of all levels of government in formulating policy? The education issue is complex and one that easily arouses tempers.
Berliner and Biddle feel strongly that much of this crisis is due to the powerful resurgence of an extreme conservatism in the nation. The authors list names, organizations, and political and religious leaders. They discuss the manipulation of data, the suppression of evidence, the lack of intellectual honesty, and the irresponsibility of the media. It is a book of controlled but obvious rage at this effort to turn the American public against public schools.
A major strength of the book comes in the authors' convictions regarding the voucher approach to education. They conclude that the voucher program in America would lead to greater inequalities in education and thus would thwart America's traditional commitment to public schools and to the equality of educational opportunity. They miss a fine opportunity to speak to the unconstitutionality of this proposal which in fact would violate America's Constitutional guarantee of separation of church and state.
The final chapter, "Toward the Improvement of Education" rescues the book from negativism and pessimism. The authors are objective in hitting straightforwardly the huge task of educating America's children. Educating the youth of a nation of 250,000,000 people with great cultural, religious, geographical, and economic differences is mind-boggling. Their suggestions for improvement are serious, mature, timely.
Read the book and come to your own conclusions about this urgently important issue. Our day desperately needs people who are well informed about, and genuinely committed to, public school education.
Cite This Page:
Morgan, Darold H.
, Berliner, David C.
, Biddle, Bruce J..
"The Manufactured Crisis - Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America`s Public Schools" ChristianEthicsToday.
The Christian Ethics Today Foundation.
August 1996 (Issue 7 Page 16)