Dan Willingham, an education professor at the University of Virginia, wants all sides of the education reform debate to tone down the rhetoric. He writes,
I think it’s fair to say that, in education policy, some of us have gone too far. People who disagree with us are depicted as not merely wrong, but evil.
This characterization is most noticeable in the what is broadly called the reform movement.
People who advocate reforms such as merit pay, the use of value added models of teacher evaluation, charter schools, and vouchers are not merely labeled misguided because these reforms won’t work. They are depicted as bad people who are unsympathetic to the difficulty of teaching and who are in the pockets of the rich.
Likewise, those who see value in teacher’s unions, who are leery of current methods of teacher evaluation, who think that vouchers threaten the neighborhood character of schools are not merely wrong: they are accused of looking out for the welfare of lousy teachers.
And of course both sides are accused of “not caring about kids.”
Dr. Willingham outlines the cognitive science behind such behavior, pointing out that “studies of ingroup and outgroup thinking show that people who disagree with us are seen as immoral.“ Anthony Cody’s response to Willingham’s plea suggests that changing the tone of the debate is easier said than done.