The book was a fascinating exercise that produced some really useful results. Mike McShane and I asked 9 very smart and experienced education scholars each to identify a failure in education reform and reflect on why that failure occurred and what could be learned from it. We didn’t pickwhat policies were failures, we let the authors do that. The only thing we did was encourage people to engage in some useful self-criticism and try to focus on policies with which they were sympathetic.
Be sure to check out the chapters by Rick Hess and Paige Willey, Larry Cuban, Dan Willingham, Marty West, Ashley Jochim, Matthew DiCarlo, Anna Egalite, Matt Ladner, and Megan Tompkins-Stange. And in the intro and concluding chapters Mike McShane and I try to identify common themes and lessons across these contributions.
Rather than blaming others, this book is about the honest mistakes we all make in trying to improve education policy and how we might avoid similar mistakes in the future. There is nothing inherently wrong with failure. The problem is our unwillingness to acknowledge and learn from failure. If we can’t do that we tend to repeat the same policy failures over and over. I would rather that we “fail better.”
Or as Samuel Beckett put it:
“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”