Centralized Goal Formation and Systemic Reform


  • Kenneth A. Strike Cornell University




Academic Freedom, Accountability, Cultural Pluralism, Diversity (Student), Educational Change, Educational Objectives, Elementary Secondary Education, Standards, Student Interests, Systems Development


This paper asks whether there are reasonable concerns about liberty raised by standards driven systemic reform. Part I explores three kinds of concerns, students' interests in autonomy and authenticity, academic freedom, and pluralism. Part II explores two ways of conceptualizing the balance between liberty and various public interests, neo-classical economics and contemporary conservative thought. The paper draws two major conclusions about standards driven systemic reform: (1) This picture of reform raises serious questions about liberty. It may be inconsistent with some liberty interests of students. It is likely to pose serious questions about academic freedom and about pluralism. These concerns should make us cautious about systemic reform and should motivate us to a broader discussion of its assumptions and consequences. (2) The best defense of public sector reform efforts against their market oriented competition is one that emphasizes the importance of political goods such as citizenship. However, standards driven reform needs to avoid linkage with any nationalistic form of communitarianism. In order to do this it needs to seek ways to balance the demands for centralized goals and an educational system with an equal concern for local democracy, pluralism and community. A view of standards and accountability that is narrowly focused on clear public interests is crucial. The paper concludes with an argument that we need to focus attention on the question of what makes for good educational communities, a discussion that is not abetted by debating issues of reform in a framework that poses choices between public sector and market approaches.


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Author Biography

Kenneth A. Strike, Cornell University

Kenneth A. Strike is Professor of Philosophy of Education at Cornell University where he has taught since 1971. He has a B.A. from Wheaton College and M.A. and Ph. D. degrees from Northwestern University. He has been a distinguished visiting professor at the University of Alberta, is a past president of the Philosophy of Education Society and is a member of the National Academy of Education. His principal interests are professional ethics and political philosophy as they apply to matters of educational practice and policy. He is the author of several books and over a hundred articles. Recent works include The Ethics of Teaching (with Jonas Soltis), The Ethics of School Administration (with Jonas Soltis and Emil Haller), Liberal Justice and the Marxist Critique of Schooling, Ethics and College Student Life (with Pamela Moss), "Professionalism, democracy and discursive communities: Normative reflections on restructuring" in the American Educational Research Journal, "The moral role of schooling in a liberal democratic society" in the Review of Research in Education, and "The Moral Role of Educators" in Handbook of Research on Teacher Education. He has had a durable interest in questions of religious liberty and schooling and in using liberal political philosophy as a lens for conceptualizing educational issues. His current work emphasizes the exploration of the normative aspects of school reform. Also Professor Strike is an enthusiastic canoeist, and, while he duly notes the academic irrelevance of this fact, he mentions it because it speaks to his good character, aesthetic sensitivity, sound body, and (possibly) sense of humor.




How to Cite

Strike, K. A. (1997). Centralized Goal Formation and Systemic Reform. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 5, 11. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v5n11.1997