Why is Education Always Reforming?

Although the constant cycles of reforms can be tiresome for many educators, the cycle can be explained by and even predicted by aspects of education that are well-known. First, education is a field that requires continuous improvement. One never “achieves being a good educator,” we adopt new practices, adapt existing practice to unfamiliar students, and otherwise refine our craft. (I do not claim this is a universal approach to our work, but few would admit they are not always trying to improve.) 

We can summarize the purpose of education graphically. Through the time students spend with the curriculum and our instruction, we hope to take them from their current state and attain a goal. This leads to the second aspect of education that contributes to the reform culture: The y-axis of the graph can and does change. Sometimes the changes in quantitative; for example, we want students in Algebra class to memorize the steps for solving equations more quickly and move through more topics during the course. Sometimes the changes are qualitative; for example, we want Algebra students to gain experience solving real-world problems with the equations. Both can be improvements, but the nature of the experience would be very different. 

Third, there is a social expectation of on-going reform. Anyone who pays attention to the political process knows that all political platforms contain an education plank, and each candidate seeks to portray themself as “the education candidate,” who will make education a top priority. (It is ironic that incumbents make this claim as often as and with as much conviction as challengers.) The assumption that motivates this political stand is that the existing practice is that existing educational practices are deficient and need to be replaced. This results in a need to change for the sake of change, and it extends to the school level. Whenever a school hires a new administrator, there is a list of changes that will be implemented. In some cases, these are based on the experiences and skills of the administrator and in other cases to remove memory of the previous leader.