THE curriculum is ”sterile.” Topics of great human interest ”on the way to the classroom are apparently transformed and homogenized into something of limited appeal.” Students ”scarcely ever speculate on meanings” or discuss ”alternative interpretations.” Teachers ”teach as they were taught” years ago in their own schooling. All the messages received by them ”conspire to reinforce the status quo. The cards are stacked against innovation.”

These are not observations on a single dismal school; they are conclusions gleaned from a summary report by the dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of California at Los Angeles, in a seven-year study of American schooling. The study, considered one of the most extensive critiques of contemporary public education, dispatched teams of researchers into 1,016 classrooms in elementary, junior high and high schools. In addition, it collected curriculum information…