Life as Education and the Irony of School Reform


  • Robert Kunzman Indiana University


reform, testing, interdisciplinary, policy, civic, homeschooling, home education


Alternative philosophies and forms of education particularly those that blur the boundaries of time, space, and subject have much to offer institutional schooling. Unfortunately, dominant reform movements in the United States advocate a simplistic, prescriptive form of schooling that relies on narrow notions of what it means to be educated and how to measure it. The constant upheaval of new programs and practices, while perhaps offering the appearance of reform, is ultimately counterproductive; the best schools cultivate a consistent, long-term vision for improvement based on relationships, consistency, and persistence. Efforts to provide a more individualized learning experience for students are praiseworthy, but should take care not to abandon the common school vision of cultivating a shared sense of the common good.


Aurini, J. & Davies, S. (2005). Choice without markets: Homeschooling in the context of private education. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 26(4), 461-474.

Barkan, J. (2011, January). Got dough? How billionaires rule our schools. Dissent Magazine. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from


Berliner, D. C. & Biddle, B. J. (1995). The manufactured crisis: Myths, fraud, and the attack on America’s public schools. New York: Basic Books.

Castleman, B. & Littky, D. (2007). Learning to love learning. Educational Leadership, 64(8), 58-61.

Glenn, C. & de Groof, J. (2002). Finding the right balance: Freedom, autonomy, and accountability in education. Utrecht: Lemma.

Haft, S., Junger Witt, P., & Thomas, T. (Producers), & Weir, R. (Director). (1989). Dead poets Society [Motion picture]. Burbank, CA: Buena Vista Pictures.

Morton, B. A. & Dalton, B. (2007). Changes in instructional hours in four subjects by public school teachers of grades 1 through 4. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

Phillips, M., Brooks-Gunn, J., Duncan, G. J., Klevanov, P., & Crane, J. (1998). Family background, parenting practices, and the black-white test score gap. In C. Jencks & M. Phillips (Eds.), The black-white test-score gap (pp. 102-145). Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.

Planty, M., Hussar, W., Snyder, T., Kena, G., KewalRamani, A., Kemp, J., Bianco, K, & Dinkes, R. (2009). The condition of education 2009 (NCES 2009-081). Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

Rothstein, R. (2010). How to fix our schools: It’s more complicated, and more work, than the Klein-Rhee ‘Manifesto’ wants you to believe. Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute.

Sawchuk, S. (2012, May). New advocacy groups shaking up education field, Education Week, 31(31), 1, 16-17, 20.

Simon, S. (2012, 12 June). Biosensors to monitor students’ attentiveness. Reuters. Retrieved September 18, 2012, from


Srikantaiah, D. (2009). How state and federal accountability policies have influenced curriculum and instruction in three states. Washington, D.C.: Center on Education Policy.

Tyack, D. & Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward utopia: A century of public school reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Webb, S. (2011). Elective home education in the UK. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham Books.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design (2nd ed.). New York: Prentice-Hall.






Invited papers