An ambitious call for a top-to-bottom revamping of American education.
Educator Stoddard (Opinions of a Maverick Educator, 2016, etc.) begins this brief but sweeping manifesto with three stark assertions: that standardized, high school classroom curricula drastically underserve students by enforcing conformity, that a radically new system would accentuate the individuality and potential of each student, and that the existence of the U.S. Department of Education is unconstitutional. In place of the traditional educational curriculum—in which students in kindergarten through 12th grades are taught a standard set of subjects, including math, science, English, and history—Stoddard envisions a program called “Educating for Human Greatness,” which “makes it possible for every student to excel in what they were born to be good at doing” by emphasizing eight specific qualities, including Identity (“The power of knowing who we are as special contributors to society”), Inquiry (“The powers of curiosity and effective investigation”), and Interaction (“The powers of caring communication and healthy relationships”). These qualities would form the basis of a student-centered educational model featuring “wise mentors” in “home-room advisory” classes across the country. Under his program, all classes would be elective, traditional graduation requirements would be abolished, and numerous new class topics would replace the customary core curriculum. Stoddard presents his plan in consistently clear and accessible prose. However, no amount of clarity will deflect likely objections by seasoned educators, or even by parents who remember initially disliking core curriculum subjects that they now enjoy—or use to make a living. Stoddard’s system not only assumes that all students are forward-thinking, aspirational, and in love with learning, but also calls for massive school-funding increases of a type that only the federal government, of which he’s strongly critical, can pay for. Readers will have to assess how much of the author’s dream they share, which seems to employ wishful thinking about a post-grades future.
A thought-provoking but potentially controversial plan for revamping the American public school system.