Solving Education – Big Huge Barriers (‘cuz I don’t quit on the holidays!)
I will be reposting this again and again over the next few weeks.
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I am going to submit some thoughts here that are, in my opinion, the main causes of our supposed inability to “fix” education.
These thoughts are what I think the Big Huge Barriers are – certainly there are more, and I would hope that all of you would reply with your own thoughts as well.
To illustrate some of my points below, if you have time – go to the following two links. Both are wonderful blog spots, written by individuals who truly care about reforming education. Read the comment sections of both. There is a veritable “cornucopia” of ideas ranging from the incomplete, to insane and nonsensical. If you don’t have time, my Big Huge Barriers below will attempt to distill some of our issues.
Big Huge Barriers:
1. Adherence to an Ideological Perspective: This covers annoying Christmas standards like “If we just kick the government out of education”, “Charter Schools are Better”, “Unions are Bad”. All are available on a compilation from Time Life Records, sung by the Chipmunks. You can listen to them over and over again while you open your presents. It won’t solve any problems, but you’ll feel better! The fact is, there are problems inherent and contributions to the issues we experience in education from every direction. Also contained here is the assumption that if we take one scapegoat out, we will solve our problems. All organizations are made up of individuals, who either collectively make good decisions or bad decisions.
2. Lack of Cultural Value: Look at our society. We pride ourselves on being capitalistic, where the money follows the most value. Telling, then, is the fact that among other highly educated/skilled professionals, teachers are among the lowest paid. I find it interesting, if not disheartening that we pay far more to those who specialize in Auto Tune, or in moving money from one account to another, than to those who guide our most precious resource. And make no mistake – as I have said many times, WE have made this decision – together.
3. Lack of Freedom for Teachers: Teachers are given so many mandates and requirements, that they find it difficult to be creative within their profession. If they don’t feel like they are being given the time to be creative, how can the kids get this feeling? Those who have found ways to be creative, end up staying awake very late at night, taking time away from their own family life.
4. Lack of Parent Involvement: But listen here – we all share the blame for this! The two statements “Work two jobs to pull yourself up by the bootstraps” AND “Attend PTA meetings, spend more time with your kids” – cannot exist in the same space at the same time. This is what I am now coining as the “Heisenberg Principle of Parenting”. To achieve widespread parent involvement, several things must happen – parent will, societal restructuring, and parent support. I will address this in a separate post later.
5. Routine Ignorance of the Process of Child Development: We try to roll child development into a series of statements that really are meant to fit our convenience – not the reality of best practices in child development. Children develop best when given the ability to explore, have regular opportunities for physical movement throughout the day, and have their unique perspectives and abilities taken into account. Does this sound like how the majority of our schools work, private or otherwise? This comes from a chosen ignorance of much of the data on child development. But some of the things we must do to achieve best practices will take money because it involves restructuring even the way classrooms are built, and the way schools are administrated. So we continue to flounder in an “undoable” structure, because we can’t fathom spending that much money. But how much does the alternative cost?
6. The Assumption that Test Scores are the Best Measure: They are not. We continually fixate on short term results, despite widespread knowledge that child development is in no way linear. Furthermore, the mandates that cause everything to hinge on test scores has been disastrous in that is has changed the very process of education. This may be the most damaging thing. If the government is to be involved in education (and I think it should), the role should be to identify and communicate best practices, then evaluate process. When we make everything about test scores – best practice literally becomes teaching the test. This is actually the most logical, effective choice in that situation. But it does not give us people who come out of school practicing the American ingenuity that we so value. In fact there is research to show that when children are given more exploratory opportunities vs. being taught how to do things, they exhibit more resilience with equal or better results. And make no mistake – it is resilience that is at the root of ingenuity. The fragile always pick the safest, least creative option.
So, after all that, what do you think?