Here is a chart of educational attainment in the United States since 1940:
When you look at that chart, do you see a crisis?
No? Me neither.
How about in these charts of reading and math achievement on the NAEP for 17-year-olds, broken down by race?
Still hard to see a crisis, at least to my eyes.
Certainly, it’s fair to say that American education has many problems related to effectiveness, efficiency, and equity.
And it’s probably reasonable to say that our country and the world face a number of bona fide crises – war, climate change, poverty, or criminal justice, for example – each with some relationship to education, however complex or indirect.
But next time you hear someone claim – or are yourself tempted to claim – that American education is in a state of “crisis” or is being “destroyed” by education reform, remember these charts. Then ask yourself whether those terms are being used productively or whether they are being defined down in a way that obscures as much as illuminates.