The Allure of Order by Jal Mehta
High Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling (Studies in Postwar American Political Development)

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Synopsis

Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush agreed on little, but united behind the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Passed in late 2001, it was hailed as a dramatic new departure in school reform. It would make the states set high standards, measure student progress, and hold failing schools accountable. A decade later, NCLB has been repudiated on both sides of the aisle. According to Jal Mehta, we should have seen it coming. Far from new, it was the same approach to school reform that Americans have tried before.
In The Allure of Order, Mehta recounts a century of attempts at revitalizing public education, and puts forward a truly new agenda to reach this elusive goal. Not once, not twice, but three separate times-in the Progressive Era, the 1960s and '70s, and NCLB-reformers have hit upon the same idea for remaking schools. Over and over again, outsiders have been fascinated by the promise of scientific management and have attempted to apply principles of rational administration from above. Each of these movements started with high hopes and ambitious promises, but each gradually discovered that schooling is not easy to "order" from afar: policymakers are too far from schools to know what they need; teachers are resistant to top-down mandates; and the practice of good teaching is too complex for simple external standardization.
The larger problem, Mehta argues, is that reformers have it backwards: they are trying to do on the back-end, through external accountability, what they should have done on the front-end: build a strong, skilled and expert profession. Our current pattern is to draw less than our most talented people into teaching, equip them with little relevant knowledge, train them minimally, put them in a weak welfare state, and then hold them accountable when they predictably do not achieve what we seek. What we want, Mehta argues, is the opposite approach which characterizes top-performing educational nations: attract strong candidates into teaching, develop relevant and usable knowledge, train teachers extensively in that knowledge, and support these efforts through a strong welfare state.
The Allure of Order boldly challenges conventional wisdom with a sweeping, empirically rich account of the last century of education reform, and offers a new path forward for the century to come.
 

About Jal Mehta

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Jal Mehta is Associate Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research explores the underlying structures which shape American schooling, the cultural assumptions which underpin these approaches to education, and the consequences of those decisions for schools, teachers, and students. He is the co-editor of The Futures of School Reform. Mehta received his Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Policy from Harvard University.
 
Published April 2, 2013 by Oxford University Press. 416 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Allure of Order

Publishers Weekly

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Regimentation—of students, and especially teachers—is the ill-conceived fourth “R” of education policy, according to this probing study of American public school reform. Harvard education professor Me

Mar 11 2013 | Read Full Review of The Allure of Order: High Hop...

Publishers Weekly

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Regimentation—of students, and especially teachers—is the ill-conceived fourth “R” of education policy, according to this probing study of American public school reform. Harvard education professor Me

Mar 11 2013 | Read Full Review of The Allure of Order: High Hop...

Reason Magazine

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May 04 2013 | Read Full Review of The Allure of Order: High Hop...

London School of Economics

The Allure of Order attempts to trace the cyclical efforts to ‘order’ American schooling over the course of the twentieth century, from 1920s reform efforts up through No Child Left Behind and the current school accountability movement.

Sep 15 2013 | Read Full Review of The Allure of Order: High Hop...

Mehta (education, Harvard Univ.; The Futures of School Reform) begins with a description of the Progressive Era, when decision-making shifted from teachers to administrators, and the focus was on accountability and outcomes. A similar notion in the late 1960s and early 1970s additionally sought t...

Jun 15 2013 | Read Full Review of The Allure of Order: High Hop...

Mehta (education, Harvard Univ.; The Futures of School Reform) begins with a description of the Progressive Era, when decision-making shifted from teachers to administrators, and the focus was on accountability and outcomes. A similar notion in the late 1960s and early 1970s additionally sought t...

Jun 15 2013 | Read Full Review of The Allure of Order: High Hop...

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