Advancing a Free Society

Eight questions for Chester Finn

Thursday, April 1, 2010

CHESTER FINN has spent most of his adult life studying and trying to improve America's education system. He is a dedicated reformer who has taken issue with the opinions of Diane Ravitch, his friend and colleague. In many of his 18 books he lays out the case for radically changing the way American schools function. He is currently a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, as well as a senior editor of Education Next. Last week we asked him why he thinks the system "needs a shakeup from top to bottom."

DIA: You often refer to the education establishment as "the blob". What do you mean by this?

Mr Finn: Bill Bennett coined this term a quarter century ago when he was education secretary and it still fits. It’s simply a synonym for “education establishment”—the myriad adult interest groups and institutional forces that generally control American public education and live off it. They include the teacher unions, of course, but also dozens of administrator groups, textbook publishers, software vendors, colleges of education, state and district bureaucracies, and so on. Like a “blob” they’re without any clear shape or mission other than self-preservation. And like a blob, they’re uncommonly difficult to move out of the way on behalf of the needs and interests of children.

Continue reading this interview with Chester Finn at The Economist