I had an enjoyable conversation with Titus Techera on his American Cinema Foundation podcast about American public education and 13 Ways of Going on a Field Trip, focusing on the tensions between fantasy and realism, aspiration and blame. Other sources of in-person community and identity have diminished, and both parents and the designers of educational systems have greater anxiety about whether there will be room, both economically and socially, for everybody in the future that is coming about. Schools become a locus of both wild hopes and angry disappointment, and teachers (and education in general) are treated both as the source of inequality and injustice and the one tool available to fight it. On the other hand, schools, for all their disappointments, often aren’t such bad places, all in all.
It reminds me a bit of the speech Shakespeare’s Henry V gives the night before Agincourt, complaining how he gets blamed for everything, even though he often can do almost nothing (“Upon the king! let us our lives, our souls/Our debts, our careful wives/ Our children and our sins lay on the king!”) Like medieval monarchs, schools can’t do much of what is expected of them, but getting rid of them, or throwing in the next guy (or educational fad) available because the one in charge doesn’t know what he is doing, often goes worse than you expect.