Education

Joel Klein

"We have a 19th-century classroom model in the 21st century."

|

As chancellor of New York City's Department of Education from 2002 to 2010, Joel Klein oversaw dramatic changes to the largest school system in the country. He worked hard to increase choice and accountability by increasing the autonomy and accountability of principals and championing charter schools. He also fought, with mixed success, to make it easier to hire and fire teachers and to eliminate onerous work rules. Klein recently left public service to head News Corporation's education initiative. For a video version of the interview, go to reason.tv/video/show/joel-klein-on-education.

reason: What is at the very top of your education reform list?

Joel Klein: I think there are three big things at the top of the reform agenda. Number one, professionalized teaching. Teaching right now is basically an assembly line, right? And we have got to reward excellence, have consequences for nonperformance, but really make teachers the heroes and not lock them into an assembly-line mode.

Number two is to give all families choice. You know, middle-class families—we all want choice, but for some reason we think poor people should only have one school, the neighborhood school, and if that doesn't work, tough. So I want to open up choices: more charter schools, more public school options.

And number three, to use technology and software in a very different way to help instruct our children. We have a 19th-century classroom model in the 21st century. 

(Interview continues below video.)


reason: And your next gig is going to be pushing new methods of learning?

Klein: Exactly. Using technology, software, distance learning, platforms, individuation, so that we focus on each child, rather than think one teacher can figure out the sweet spot in a class of 26 kids.

reason: What are the big outcomes that would come from this?

Klein: I think the big outcomes are to really dramatically increase the number of people graduating from high school, ready for college. Right now, throughout the country and in New York, we have far too few kids graduating, period, and even those that are graduating are not college- or career-ready. So we've got to change that.

reason: What are the big obstacles to the types of changes that you're talking about?

Klein: Politicians, a lot of times. The bureaucrats. People who do well under the existing status quo, whether it's the unions, whether it's the politicians, whether it's the bureaucrats, vendors—those are the groups that will protect a status quo that serves their needs, even if it doesn't serve the needs of the students. The way I see this is, we have got to move to a customer-focused school system. When I say "customer," I mean our students. Right now, they're the ones who essentially are conscripted into a single school.

reason: Virtually every other aspect of American society has shifted to a customer-focused worldview. Why is it taking education so long?

Klein: Government tends to be different. But think about it: Our college system is customer-focused, and still today America's college system is respected throughout the world. Our K–12 system is not customer-focused, and as a result of that we're paying a price. The reason is because there's a political group that supports the status quo, because it works well for them. 

NEXT: The Editors of The Washington Post Shrugged

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Good morning reason!

    1. These are all quotes from Radley Balko concering James O’Keefe from the last 6 months alone. I wonder why he encourages taping police, but not US Senate offices, or NPR?

      ?James O’Keefe bars spectators from recording his speech.
      ?James O’Keefe reaches new depths of despicableness. Worse, he’s spawning imitators.
      ?James O’Keefe bars spectators from recording his speech.
      ?There’s so much real investigative journalism conservatives could be doing on government waste, incompetence, accountability, and transparency. It’s pathetic that donors on the right keep handing over money for these moronic “stings”. The right needs 10 more Tim Carneys. Instead, they keep churning out James O’Keefes.
      ?Holding Andrew Breitbart to the same standards he holds ACORN. It’s a fair point.
      Joining Me Now To Discuss What James O’Keefe’s Latest Video Means for Obama’s Plan for Libya, Are Democratic Strategist Bob Beckell, and Republican Advisor Dick Morris (Link has babies talking, really funny stuff.

    1. 1) Something really ignorant (and that helps increase gas prices)
      2) Something very ignorant
      3) Something ignorant that wastes your money and helps increase gas prices
      4) Something that is actually better for the environment (depending what impact) and just worse for your overall health.
      5) Something ignorant that depends on the quantity of water being used to actually know whether this has an impact
      6) I can’t believe I wasted my time clicking your link
      7) Delicious.

      Keep up the archaic thinking that you’re somehow at war with the environment around you. Apparently you just fell behind a little in the evolutionary process.

      1. Go squat on a mushroom.

        1. Funny that you say this yet your namesake is currently a species suffering a major population collapse.

          1. Why for you bury me in the cold, cold ground?

          2. My bad for not using sunscreen

            1. Actually, it appears to be a genetic disorder, brought about by mindless in-breeding. hmm….

              1. democrats…go figure

      2. 1) Something really ignorant (and that helps increase gas prices)

        —Drilling in Alaska ANWR, the national parks and off the coast of Florida lowers oil prizes. In fact, Fidel Castro plans to drill near Florida.

        2) Something very ignorant

        —Burning garbage frees garbage dumps. Throwing out the window gives the cleaning people something to do.

        3) Something ignorant that wastes your money and helps increase gas prices

        —Yes, but you save time. Life is short, buddy, do you always follow the speed limit? Do you drive like an old person?

        5) Something ignorant that depends on the quantity of water being used to actually know whether this has an impact

        —According to the tree huggers, it does. And I’m sure the greens don’t like chemicals in those bubble baths either.

        6) I can’t believe I wasted my time clicking your link

        —I can’t believe you commented on it.

        7) Delicious.

        —Yes, the greens hate it though because cows generate methane gasses.

        Either way, screw you Mother Earth!

  2. I’d happily move to primary education after some significant restructuring and merit based pay was factored in. Even if it was year round schooling, I’d take 2 months vacation as well as all those holidays.

  3. And being done with work at 3 every day would be fun.

  4. It seems our false consciousness in our desire for reform goes even deeper than manipulation by the omnipresent Kochtopus, but we are actually complete rubes and tools of the grand religious right troglodytes and their desire to impose a theocracy. It seems by the tenor of the article below that our libertarian heros are either unwitting accomplices or just feigning a love of freedom and choice to placate their fundementalist masters.
    http://www.talk2action.org/sto…..ic_Schools

    1. I’m guessing that this passage came off your groups “promotional literature”?

    2. I have a rule: whenever I see the phrase “false consciousness”, I stop reading.

      1. What do you do when you see that phrase? Finish your thought! Personally, I stop reading when I come upon the words “false consciousness”.

      2. me too, excecpt I turn off for “troglodyte” even though it’s such a fun word to say.

  5. 19th century classrooms were highly effective. What we have today is more of an indifferent babysitting model.

    -jcr

    1. Having spent time with intellegent and principled individuals who work in the public school system in NY; the babysitting model seems to be the norm. Changing the paradigm is necessary.

      Klein is correct in his observations. Let me give you a scary vision of what education needs to move to. The model will be driven by current economics as well as a hoped for chance at excellence.

      Elementary school needs to be a period of socialization and preparation to engage the learning process fully. Here, students will be taught basics, how to interact with each other and access electronic distance learning. Middle school will become more of an individual effort graduating as the grade level increases. The student may only be in a brick and mortar building for 3 – 4 days per week and fewer hours per day. Most coursework will be delivered online by “master teachers” so determined by a combination of peer review, administrative review and student rating for the subject matter taught. They will be deemed the most effective at delivering the subject matter in terms of quantity and retention as well as encouraging self discovery. Test material can be delivered online and will offer almost immediate feedback in terms of successful retention and understanding; it can drive any remedial learning that needs to take place on an individual level. High School will be mostly an online experience. Student presence will only be required for those courses that cannot be delivered online such as music, art, science lab, PE and Athletics. Live instructors will only be required for remedial education.

      The advanatages of this type of setting are cost efficency, the ability to go to school at your own pace and time frame, course availablity as more material will be available for students, and a reduced environmental impact as the need for transportation and school buildings will become lesser over time. Of course, the political impact of Education Unions will be lessened as well.

      1. I’m OK with your plan, just as long as school work doesn’t take priority over sports.

      2. “Elementary school needs to be a period of socialization and preparation to engage the learning process fully.” And this was formerly the responsibility, duty and sole privilege of the parents (note the plural) of children. Since the government at all levels assumed that task – as well as many others for which it is incompetent – the children are not only ignorant compared to their grandparents, but are so lacking in basic socialization that they kill each other over places in lines and who gets to arrive at the stop light five seconds before the rest.

      3. so all you poor folk better have super whammo-dyne internet access and a gigabyte size home computer or you’ll just be shit outta luck

    2. Yes, you are correct. Computerized instruction isn’t going to correct what’s wrong in most classrooms. Generations of students have learned just fine with books and good teachers and some motivation (or at least self-discipline).

  6. we are actually complete rubes and tools of the grand religious right troglodytes and their desire to impose a theocracy.

    Shriek?

    1. Christfag Bushpig!

      1. You forgot Fat Rush, Junk Silver, Municipal Bonds, And TeaFaggots.

        1. Yeah! I just love “Greatest Hits” albums.

  7. Using technology, software, distance learning, platforms, individuation, so that we focus on each child, rather than think one teacher can figure out the sweet spot in a class of 26 kids.

    Mumbo-jumbo from the Professoriat.

  8. No parent is forced to send their child to a charter school, let alone a Christian charter school.

    If public schools don’t compete with charter, parochial, or private, that’s their problem. I don’t understand your objection.

  9. “That erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and make them fit to discharge the duties citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be from the truth.

    “The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever pretensions of politicians, pedagogues other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.”

    – HL Mencken, 1924

  10. It is amazing the difference a single little “L” can make. Take it away and you get “Joe Klein” one of the single dumbest people currently inhabiting planet earth. Add it and you get this guy.

  11. New York City employed this guy?

    1. Sure, NYC isn’t all liberals although the guys at 1211 6th Avenue in Manhattan claims it is.

      http://www.bing.com/local/deta…..&FORM=LARE

  12. If we still had 19th C results, high school graduates would be able to read, do math, and speak several languages. Grammar school graduates would be able to do the first two.

    All the new techniques and gadgets in the world won’t help the fact that:

    1) Reading is the CORE of all learning
    2) Many people (most?) don’t need anything beyond grammar school and vocation ed.

    “Don’t try to teach a pig to sing, it wastes your time, and annoys the pig.”

    1. but can also lead to great ham sandwiches…a slice of swiss and some mustard on mine thanks.

  13. I agree with the statement that many people dont need anything beyond vocational ed. Though I do wonder how the fact that systems are becoming more advanced, and thus so is the required knowledge to fix these systems. I’m not sure how that will play out with voc ed programs

    1. sorry so choppy, multitasking wins again

    2. Some tasks might require a PhD level education, but I think that years of actual experience are much more valuable for dealing with complicated systems.

      1. That’s been the case with my foray into machining.

    3. Math is important, and needed to develop critical thinking skills.

      1. Agreed, critical reasoning is needed, but some symbolic logic is a basic part of a good high school math curriculum.

      2. Lets send all the politicians to remedial arithmetic. They eather can’t count or think that we can’t.

    4. Voc Ed programs would be nice if we actually made anything or repaired anything anymore…mostly it’s just throw it away and buy something made in China. Voc Ed that so last century thinking.

  14. “So I want to open up choices: more charter schools, more public school options.”

    Odd there seems never a government-free private approach considered.

    vouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchersvouchers

  15. I’ve recently seen pieces by Rudy Crew, and now Joel Klein, where they get to wax philosophical about whats wrong with American education and how the fixes are tough but possible… well, all I can say is that these dudes tend to find a lot of balls and vision whenever *they leave office*. The decade they spend in charge of the nation’s largest and shittiest school system? Oh, its a burden to be borne…but nothing anyone will ever actually take responsibility for.

    Seriously, being NYC schools chancellor is something of the Worst Job On Earth – no one walks in and ever does anything particularly successful. You have to be the kind of person who’s comfortable with perpetuation of mediocrity, pretending to make small changes in the margins, and then write a visionary book about American education after you quit that horrible shitty job.

    I know this sounds ungenerous, but I have a fairly low opinion of the NYC school system and its overlords, and think most of the people who took the mantle of running it should be either be ashamed of themselves for ever having participated in such a horrible dysfunctional bureaucratric mess, or have the balls to actually try and effect real long term change, at risk of one’s career and public reputation. A la Michelle Rhee. If you don’t make any enemies in that job, you arent’ DOING your job. And most of them never do.

    instead, no, every single one of them kicks the can down the road, nibbles at the edges of behemoth, then leaves the job patting themselves on the back for their fortitude and authors a book with talking-point proscriptions for other bureaucrats to use as things to discuss amongst each other or with the press while actually doing absolutely nothing about the fundamental systemic problems.

    Sorry, I just @*#&$ hate NYC school chancellors. Seriously.

    I mean, this =

    What are the big obstacles to the types of changes that you’re talking about?

    Klein: Politicians, a lot of times. The bureaucrats. People who do well under the existing status quo, whether it’s the unions, whether it’s the politicians, whether it’s the bureaucrats, vendors?those are the groups that will protect a status quo that serves their needs, even if it doesn’t serve the needs of the students.

    I mean, who are we talking about, specifically, Joel? YOU, YOU JERK OFF.

    I mean, as far as injecting ‘Choice’ and ‘Professionalizing’ the school system….what did you really accomplish? Fuck all. Bunch of lip service paid to ‘innovation’ and ‘choice’, but when push comes to shove, all you ever did was maintain the status quo while getting perhaps a few meaningless concessions (a few charter schools maybe) from time to time to justify your own existance.

    Maybe I’m being totally unfair, but if there was some startling improvement in the NYC school system under his tenure, you’ll have to forgive me, because no one in the city seems to have noticed.

    1. mmmm….a well crafted rant.
      Well done, Sir…sincerely…well done.

  16. we all have our pet ideas for how to fix schools, but the most important thing is to introduce choice and competition into the system (removing the home address restriction, and removing some hurdles to charter schools would be huge), so that our guesses for the best central planning solution won’t be needed.

  17. I think the big outcomes are to really dramatically increase the number of people graduating from high school, ready for college. Right now, throughout the country and in New York, we have far too few kids graduating, period, and even those that are graduating are not college- or career-ready. So we’ve got to change that.

    Point for the kids. Sure they might be a bunch horny, gullible, sheltered morons, but even they resent having their time actively wasted by people who have little interest in them beyond keeping them sequestered in a building for 8-9 hours a day.

  18. Klein looks like Nosferatu.

  19. You cannot fix public education. The very premise is flawed.

    1. The premise itself isn’t flawed–Americans have been promoting public education in some form or another for the last 250 years. However, the success of the institution has always relied on the willingness of the parents to also be involved in the educational process. A good public education system grows out of a functional, high-trust community, not the other way around. Far too many people these days promote the idea that public education is an end in and of itself, rather than an adjunct to a non-dysfunctional society.

  20. Actually I believe the majority of people would prefer to give choice to the poor with vouchers and the like. It is mainly the Teachers Union and the politician that receive their political donations that are against it. We really need more online home schooling, but with two income families that does not work either.

  21. Actually I believe the majority of people would prefer to give choice to the poor with vouchers and the like. It is mainly the Teachers Union and the politician that receive their political donations that are against it. We really need more online home schooling, but with two income families that does not work either.

  22. Let’s abolish public education. That way, some education might actually take place.

    ABRAHAM LINKIN, DAT GUY WIT THEM CHERRY TREE isn’t education.

  23. Here’s a ton of good stuff re education:

    http://eugenichegemony.blogspo…..izens.html

  24. Unfortunately Mr. Klein’s years as chancellor did not show gains in student achievement, 2/3 of high school graduates require remediation in community college and CUNY completion rates are abysmal. His “solutions” fit a politcal agenda and ignore research-based solutions. The highly flacked “reformers,” i.e., Klein, Rhee, etc., have “mastered the message,” and have failed the students they claim to treasure. If there is a hero it is Diane Ravitch.

  25. Giving students the access to multiple educational settings allows them to learn without forcing them into a situation where they can’t. So many times parents complain of their son/daughter in a classroom where there is another student consistently disrupting the classroom or a student who is a grade level ahead. Charter schools, parochial schools, private schools along with the traditional public schools can give parents a CHOICE in how their student learns. Teachers are taught to differentiate their instruction for all learners. How does that help when the teacher is teaching a mile wide but an inch deep? Alternative schools like public charters will allow students an opportunity to learn in a setting that works for them, instead of forcing them into a situation that won’t.

  26. I’m glad to see state’s taking charge where the fed has proven incompetent and statist.

    http://www.intellectualtakeout…..er-schools

  27. thank you man

    thank you man

    thank you man

  28. Please keep the display ports no matter what people say. Your device will be *very* important in developing countries, think like, the ibm pc of video game consoles.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.