People learn something every day, and a lot of times it’s that what they learned the day before was wrong. -- Bill VaughnSchool reformers point to the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on basic education and complain that we are not getting our money's worth. They may be right. But we will never know for sure if we continue our habit of vague, contradictory and hopelessly optimistic expectations regarding what schooling can accomplish.
Some of this cockeyed optimism is understandable. When it comes to children, our hopes for a better tomorrow encourage a particularly nutty breed of optimism. Even life's most grizzled veterans find their hopes triumphing over their experience.
But schooling has become far too important and expensive to be totally given over to wishful thinking. At least some realism is required. To that end we would like to clarify what schools can and cannot reasonably be expected to do.
To continue the discussion see Dissecting School Benefits: a typology of conflicting goals