Social Reforms Can Ignite Change in Failing School Districts
As part of "The Future of Urban Education" series, Dr. Benjamin Justice, Professor for the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, sits down with Steve Adubato to discuss how social reforms could ignite the real change needed to improve failing school districts.
"Steve Adubato, this is part of our series called The Future of Urban Education. We're taping in Newark, New Jersey at the North Ward Center. It is our pleasure to welcome Doctor Benjamin Justice, Professor of the Graduate School of Education, at my alma mater. A great school, not because I went there, but Rutgers University. Good to see a doctor. Nice to see you. Thank you. I want to thank you for being part of our forum on urban education. Big picture... you see, and look at, and research urban school systems across this nation. Why is urban education, overall, so challenging? Urban education is challenging because urban living is challenging. And you know, we t... my colleague at Rutgers Newark, Jean Anyon, who recently passed, once said that trying to change urban schools is like trying to run an air filter next to a screen door. Hmm. You know, it's really difficult to clean the air with all the other air coming in, right? And... Right. You know, urban schools are challenging because cities are challenging. And cities are challenging as a result of policy over the course of the 20th century. So it's not... it's not surprising that we're in the situation that we're in. You have talked about school reform. I'm curious about this. Define school reform. And is it different in every case? So school reform is... we define it in... when I teach a course called The History of School Reform, we define a school reform as a planned effort to make a school better. And I think, by and large, people who engage in school reform do try to make schools better. But what's also true is the old expression that when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Hmm. Right? And so... You mean you're looking for a problem? Well you're looking for a particular kind of problem. And sometimes you'll see a situation, and you'll define it in a way where you feel like you can fix it without having to change your tools. And so... But what's the larger reality in your view? Well the larger reality is, again, that urban education in particular, requires a look, not just at what schools are doing, but what communities are doing, what businesses are doing, what state government is doing. Schools that... Or not? Or not. Schools largely reflect the communities that they serve, and that, you know, serve the schools. Is there something about Newark...? I mean we're taping in Newark. Based on the 1947 Constitution of New Jersey, the state has the responsibility for education. So therefore in three..."