The most fundamental issue of education in this country, the issue that underlies virtually all other issues, is that we want to have it and we want it to be good, but we do not want to pay for it. We want a Lexus, but we want it at Yugo prices (and we're pretty sure that Those People could just make do with a bicycle).
No issue captures this better than the issue of class size.plenty of research to underscore the benefits of smaller class sizes, but seriously-- who needs it? It's bad form to pretend that anecdotal evidence is not true data, except in this case we're talking about anecdotes from several million teaching professionals, several million children children, and several million parents.
Ask parents. Would you rather have your child in a class of fifteen or thirty-five? Then find me even a dozen parents who pick the larger class. Heck, even people in the "Gosh, there's no hard evidence that smaller is better" crowd admit that they still prefer smaller for their own children. Meanwhile, every teacher will tell the same story that I will tell you about my years in the classroom--with fewer students, I could give each student more personal attention. Not only that, but as an English teacher, fewer students meant that I could do more writing assignments as well as provide richer feedback because I was only grading 150 essays over the weekend instead of 300.
I mean, we could play this game all day. Ask any teacher if they are more effective with large or small classes. Ask students how they feel about being one face in a large crowd in class. Ask any high school teacher what the difference is between grading 100, 200, or 300 tests. Ask any parent if they hope that their child will get a really big class next fall. Ask a teacher what size class would more likely entice them to work at a particular district.
And yet, in the wake of a New York legislative requirement to reduce class sizes, here comes stuff like this fat slice of baloney in the New York Times that tries to pretend that class size is a unsolved mystery of the ages:The bill reignited a half-century-old debate that has pitted teachers and parents who believe smaller class sizes are better for children against city officials, who point to evidence suggesting there are better and more cost-effective ways to improve education.