On Views of Education: Vol 1 – Reform

As a member of a teaching staff, I marched to my own beat as a believer in need for reform across many aspects of education. In discussions, I was often the contrarian in the group. One person once described me as the best devil’s advocate she had ever been around. I countered her comment that I wasn’t being the devil’s advocate, just being myself.

In the world of educational conformity, I was often the voice in the wilderness. I often spoke my mind, and a few of my past colleagues who read these pages will think – Yep, he said that.

Packing to move provides an opportunity to sort, discard, and organize. I kept some of my writings from my teaching days, thus recently gathered some of the quotes, most of which were written between 1987-2001.

Some will cheer while others jeer. Some will detect a passion, others will think Oh no, he’s one of those. Readers may disagree with some, all, or possibly none … and that’s OK – after all, I’ve handled dialogue on sensitive subjects before. But keep in mind, because we may disagree, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong – thus it just means we disagree.

Below is a collection of quotes with each standing on its own, so I numbered them only for reference.

Today’s Topic: Reform
1) Schools are still using an industrial age model in an attempt to prepare students for a rapidly changing future. By keeping this model, schools are racing against each other to see who has the most souped-up Model T. Yet, some districts have been successful at placing a Corvette body on the outside to give it a better appearance … but it’s still a Model T.

2) Teaching 21st Century skills in an early 20th Century model is simply impossible. How can the educational system change when it spend so much time and effort promoting how well it’s doing? Understanding change is one thing, but showing a belief through actions is another. My prediction? Education will continue on the path of illusion because too much inertia exists.

3) The need for educational change is well documented. Ways to change are well documented. Forward-thinking approaches challenging the status quo are well documented. Reason why change doesn’t occur are well documented? Now is the time for significant change to begin …. so, why don’t we? Oh, resistance to change is also well documented.

4) At best, reform has simply been a “tinkering” of the old system; whereas restructuring involves overhauling the existing system to establish a new operating structure.

5) A simple five-part plan: 1) Develop the desired outcomes based on societal needs, not established curriculum 2) developed a competency-based mastery-approach to evaluation, 3) focus the curriculum to meet those outcomes, 4) restructure the school day and the school calendar, and 5) make the student and their parents responsible for their actions and choices.

6) A mission statement is 1) a guiding principle for all decision-making in an effective organization, and 2) a requirement for accreditation. Which is worse? a) lack of a mission statement or b) failure to implement the existing mission statement.

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78 thoughts on “On Views of Education: Vol 1 – Reform

    • Jay,
      Good question … and for sure, I was one about the latter … and future posts in this series will demonstrate that (and I’m guessing without checking, but I imagine the posts on curriculum & teaching). Meanwhile, whether the current state standards or the oncoming Common Core standards, each actually does more for entrenching the status quo instead of promoting change.

      FYI …. I currently have 6 of these, and envision one a week.

      Like

  1. Oh, ho, ho Frank! I spent thirty years as a parent, teacher and later teacher trainer and senior administrator in an alternative education system. Over those years I watched as slow inroads were made into our ‘alternative’ curriculum by the state who seemed to be determined to bring all alternatives to state education into line and to force us all to adopt their ‘norm’. Less and less has education become about opening minds, raising interest levels, learning across the board skills and inculcating in the young students a life-long interest in learning and the ABILITY TO LEARN. It has become about ‘getting jobs’, learning current technology and specialising only in what a student might show a natural aptitude for. How the brain develops and the ages and stages of childhood and young adult are lost. Kids who don’t fit the current model are labelled ‘difficult’ and/or ‘ADHD’ and either given drugs, or simply kept as quiet as possible between bell times – or both. I also watched as more and more parents abdicated more and more responsibility for their children’s education and expected schools to deliver everything, including manners, interest levels, and basic skills.

    I agree, education needs a radical over-haul. So does society. But there, that’s just me playing devil’s advocate!

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    • Pauline,
      You have said a lot, and it seems that the US & New Zealand educational systems may have a lot in common. I can say that future topics include change, teaching & learning, curriculum, & leadership (probably not in that order). Given your experience, will be interesting to see if we are on the same page.

      We’ve learned so much about the brain in the past 30 years, including learning .. yet, how much of that actually becomes part of a classroom? Thanks for sharing your thoughts & experience!

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  2. My 10-year-old grandson is extremely bright. He makes top grades with little effort. His father was told he missed by two points being assigned a jump to advanced grade. Physically he is small for his age, but is the best basketball player on his intramural team. He makes his own video’s showing astounding tricks with throwing discs. He has mastered the art of “magic” and when he went to a magic show in Branson last year, he explained how every trick was done.

    Last week, snow was predicted but didn’t show, and he had to go to school after all. He wept.

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    • Jim,
      It’s obvious that your grandson takes after his grandfather! … Meanwhile, having a defined score is a great way to avoid making a decision. I used to say that if a freshman has the ability to take a junior-level course, let them! After all, if they have the ability, capitalize on it … and if they don’t, they have the right to make a bad decision. Needless to say, that idea never got traction.

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      • I think you misunderstand, Frank. My grandson is bored with school – it stifles him and stunts his creativity. He hates it. The principal conundrum of public education as I see it is that it has too little flexibility to develop the many different kinds of intelligence and creativity presented by the students. It could be much better, as evidenced by those commenters who speak of Finland’s example.

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        • I got that, and agree that schools purposely minimize flexibility with their one size fits all approach – such as a defined sequential set of courses … or even a certain score to determine one can skip a grade. At the same time, state standards support schools being inflexible.

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  3. I love number five, especially its subparts #2 and #5. I come from a family of teachers, and it’s evident that parental involvement goes a long way toward student success. I’m not talking about helicopter parents who do their kids’ homework and projects for them; I’m talking about parents who make sure homework is getting done, hold their kids accountable for their assignments, and expect certain standards from their kids based on each child’s ability. Teachers aren’t miracle workers. They are there to build on what has already (hopefully) been put in place.

    Great post, Frank. (Then again, they always are. 🙂 )

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    • Carrie,
      Oh yes … those helicopter parents are also the ones poking their noses into as many aspects of school as possible. There’s no doubt in my mind that schools have accepted taking on some of student and parent responsibility.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Educational reform is a farce. They just stick a band aid on things, and check the boxes. It’s too much testing, and now I feel like kids are expected to learn things very quickly, all in the name of progress. Let’s teach them faster; so we have kids who aren’t ready to learn the stuff and then are labeled as having learning problems. They are then usually ADD or something. I just know that the stuff my kids need to learn is at much greater pace than what I had to do. This is not an improvement Add to this dilemma, that many kids can’t afford or get into college. It’s a mess, Frank! The student loan crisis is next…

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    • Amy,
      I know you are a parent of school-aged kids, so you are smack in the middle of school life … so I sense a bit of venting … and that’s OK. Farce, band aids, and check the boxes are (to me) very powerful descriptors. Many thanks for sharing.

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  5. I do agree with all your statements… s new forward thinking is needed conbind with the need for continual change… technology moves along at a very fast pace, yet education is the tortoise of the race… with the interchange of knowledge on the www I’m astounded that the schools seem wary of using it….

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    • Bulldog,
      Years ago I heard an analogy of how much aviation changed once the jet engine was invented … thus saying that education needs the equivalent of the jet engine. But if it came along, I’m not convinced that the public and the education establishment would let it change. Meanwhile, as society continues to change at a fast rate, schools change at a much slower rate – thus fall further behind each day.

      Liked by 1 person

    • LB,
      Good one … oh yes … I was in elementary school when the teacher proclaimed that the US would be changing to metrics … thus the importance of learning it. Let’s see … that was in the early to mid 1960s … at least our speedometers now have kilometers per hour in small print … Oh wait … track & field events are primarily metric! … This saying says a lot – We’ve come a long way baby!

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  6. Great post. I work in education and it’s exactly the same here. Successive governments talk about reform, but there is no real reform, just tinkering with different aspects. Teaching is reduced to teaching for the test, because the test results are what the schools are judged on, it’s all about league tables. We have Ofsted over there (The Office for Standards in Education), who inspect all schools on a cyle, they come in for a few days and assess lots of different aspects against various criteria, on something akin to a tick box system, and schools are then rated, and reports are written about them and published online,and really you can probably imagine some of the range of issues and controversies around this! The Ofsted Inspector is viewed like the tax inspector!

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    • Vanessa,
      Very interesting because I can only state about my experience in the US … but I didn’t experience the standards inspector. However, pitting schools against each other via published reports of testing scores is the norm here. I imagine I would hate being in the classroom these days. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

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  7. Greetings from Finland! I agree with all of your statements, and I can see that the problems of education are similar everywhere. Finland boasts a very good system, but I would stress the need for continuous education everywhere – a more flexible system that would continue and adapt throughout our lives instead of stopping in early adulthood.

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    • Ana,
      One of the best things about this post is that comments are from all over the world, so many thanks for your perspective. Yes …. Finish education is lauded in reports, and I know I linked a report about it somewhere in the past several years … but finding it could be time consuming. I absolutely agree that continuous education is paramount!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting views from you as also from your commentators. School education needs reform is true all over the world.

    It is the folks in charge who need to envision a longterm perspective.

    Thanks and regards.

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    • Dilip,
      Getting comments about this from the US, UK, Finland, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Spain, and now India has been very interesting. Speaking of those in charge, one of the future posts will be about leadership.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Number 5, Amen!
    The other person teaches, elementary school. One of the kids refused to go to back to school after the holidays. The kid’s mother went to the school and yell at the other person. Telling him it was his fault the kid didn’t want to go back to school and that she would report him.
    All that happened before class started, all the kids were there. When the mother left one of the kids told the other person, that the kid didn’t want to go to school because he wanted to stay at home playing video games. “Santa” brought him the Play Station 4 and that’s better than school of course.

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  10. In Canada, children in grades 3 and 6 must go through mandatory testing, but there are problems with it (as with all tests). I would agrue that teachers should also have to go through mandatory testing to make sure their skills and knowledge are up to date. I also think that teachers with math (for example) background should not be teaching math. Overall I think there should be an entire restructing of the school system, because it is not working.

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  11. I would like to learn more about Finland’s education system as compared to the U.S. So far what I know from the media is that: (1) the performance of their students tops the rest of the world, (2) they have very little standardized testing, (3) they are highly selective in who they allow to earn a teaching degree, and (4) they pay their K-12 teachers at or close to the level of physicians and lawyers in the U.S. I would also like to know the results of polls in Finland that ask their citizens the following questions: (1) Do you like Finland’s K-12 system of education? Do you like Finland’s system of K-12 teacher training? Do you think Finland’s K-12 teachers are paid (1) too little, (2) the right amount, (3) too much?

    Concerning educational reform and my personal non-musical education (I’m a retired public school band teacher) – I’ve always had the dream of being able to speak a foreign language. My experience trying to learn French has gone through three phases: (1) high school French, (2) taking private, small group, and class French lessons after I retired from teaching, (3) using the Fluenz French Language computer program. Only the Fluenz computer program has worked for me. Why? Because (1) it’s inexpensive and therefore I can use it every day, (2) it allows me to learn at my own pace and either review or jump ahead whenever I want, (3) it doesn’t slow me down by making me stop every time I’m not perfect with my pronunciation, and (4) it doesn’t embarrass me when I can’t pick up the meaning of spoken French the first time I hear it.

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    • Tim,
      Given your questions about the Finish education system, it seems you’ve given yourself an assignment. I had something about them in an Interesting Reads section sometime in the past, but finding it could be time consuming … and it done quickly, that would be luck.

      I applaud you love learning a foreign language, so you need to immerse yourself in a small French village for a month! Thanks for being an example for the importance and value of life-long learning!

      Like

  12. Sorry I’m late, Frank, but I’m home computer-less right now because my 8-year-old MacBook died yesterday so just a quick comment from here at The Grind while The Boss slipped out for a bit. I like #5 a lot. Looking back, my siblings and I were very lucky that we had parents who took participating in our education seriously. When we were clearing their house after Dad died last year, my sister and I were shocked to see how many of my school papers Mom kept. She was very pro-active about education. Parental involvement, or lack of it, can also have an impact.

    Like

    • Lame,
      Parental involvement is very important, but in a way that they are a bridge between the classroom and the child. Sure the parent must also be an advocate for the child (when necessary), but the role that many have abandoned is the role of being an advocate for the school. Cheers to your parents!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. AFrank:

    This is truly a thought provoking post which is way above my pay grade to answer responsibly. Thankfully, others better equipped and more knowledgeable have given their views and I agree with them and you.

    After reading the post, three quick thoughts came to mind:

    1. What can an educational system do that would make a child want to come to school rather than be forced to go to school?

    2. Does modern education spend enough time teaching a child (by the end of high school) basic finance – how to budget, how to reduce debt, daily expenses, etc.?

    3. If I could give guidance to a child (and the child would actually listen), I would say – learn a foreign language, travel, participate in a team sport, learn to play a musical instrument or develop a hobby. In other words, become well-rounded, which often pays off handsomely in life.

    C-a-L

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    • Mudge,
      The school model continues to be an extension of the Industrial Age model … not only a model that it is unwilling to shed, it’s also a model that the public nor the politicians will let it shed. So to answer the first question, I question if it can be done in the current climate.

      #2 – No … and not even close. That is not deemed important. In a standards-driven world, my point is easy to see. Meanwhile, your well-rounded approach is worthy!

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  14. I’ve been a teacher in public and private school, from elementary, to secondary, to adult grad students. But the best teaching job I ever had was during the summers, in college, as a Red Cross swimming instructor. Why? Because what needed to be learned was practical and obvious and so was the test of whether it had been learned or not. No one drowned on my watch, and it was utter joy for us both, each time a child realized for the first time the thrill of his or her own buoyancy.
    The problem with reform is the word “form”. Forms can become dead things we cling to, just for the sake of form…because we really don’t know what to do next. So we write about core values and draft mission statements. Most mission statements I have read are a load of crap…lovely sounding empty words that end up in a drawer as soon as the drafting committee is disbanded. Change can. take place only in an environment that recognizes change, impermanence, dynamism as basic to all we are and do….the beauty of the individual as well as the practical need for us to live together in. peace and prosperity.

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    • Cynthia,
      Thanks for sharing your personal examples. Love the swimming example. Oh yes … the word form … I used “sacred cows” to refer to the stuff attendees would bring to a discussion for them to protect. A room full of sacred cows won’t go anywhere, and eventually will become full of crap. … I’m right with you on mission statements … and I must have written my comment at a time when my school must have been reviewing it.

      Like

    • Malcolm,
      First, there must be objectives … the mastery approach is a process in which the student continues to work until reaching a mastery level … as opposed to the traditional system of taking a Ch. 3 test, failing, then going on to Ch. 4. In other words, no Ch 4 until a student is competent at Ch 3. Yes … a different education structure would be required.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Great post! As a former educator, I couldn’t agree more. I tried to be a change agent in my college. It was like trying to raise the sail on a diving submarine. So many educators think they already know it all. They don’t. Education is meant to be a life-long pursuit for everyone–not just the students!

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  16. Excellent post!… There are so many points to keep in mind here and I much appreciate that you pointed them out in such an accurate way!. I would say that education is a sort of tool loaded with countless possibilities. Future is probably hanging upon the decisions governments take in the present days!~ All the best to you! Aquileana 😀

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  17. On the whole, the education system usually reflects the values of the society. It seems to me that most of the aims of western society, when it comes to the education of the you, are questionable. The schools often serve as a baby sitting device. True learning has to be accomplished by the student. The teachers can help. The institution can supply the students needs… but they can’t supply the motivation. The idea that all students are equal is ridiculous. And so the aim of no student being left behind is so idealistic as to be a liability to the process. Serious studies existed long before the industrial revolution. But the industrial revolution didn’t add much. It just trained willing workers. I would be interested in reading your plan for modern education, Frank. But I don’t think it’ll work if it’s meant for the entire population. Not everyone wants to learn.

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    • Shimon,
      No question that the actually learning is done by the student with the teachers help … and if one doesn’t want to learn, there is nothing anyone can do until that person changes their mind. Meanwhile, all students are equal in terms of providing opportunities for learning, but all students aren’t equal when it comes to ability and motivation.

      To me, the Industrial Age brought a broad education to the masses, which was helpful to society at the time. However, even then, as now, the strongest, determined mines moved on.

      As for my plan, unfortunately if I became the Education Czar, become too much like Stalin in order to purge the system. However, I will add this. In the US, standards and testing driving the system. I may start with a 2-pronged approach … if the innovative district want to do something different … plan it, submit it, and if approved, they would be exempt from many tests … meanwhile, the others can follow the traditional system …. and those innovative schools would be subject to scrutiny because I know some would have the goal to avoid the mandatory testing. Then again, the public wouldn’t allow their district to be innovative … so the beat goes on.

      Thanks for adding your perspective. I will probably have another collection next week.

      Like

  18. With you ALL the way here Mr Frank. Mainstream schooling favours those with a particular learning style and leaves many students out in the cold. It’s time for a serious overhaul but no-one wants to touch that hot potato and suffer the enormous cost and effort required to undertake this mammoth task.

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  19. You are wise, sir! (That means I agree with you.) Academics is such a big business and things are so interrelated by transferring units, etc. that change is next to impossible. It would be easier to start over. My whole working life has been devoted to education–the learning part is so crucial, the structure and business end is frustrating. Here is a link to one of my blog posts on the need to cultivate curiosity to really foster educational reform. https://learnmoreeveryday.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/curiosity-the-key-to-educational-reform/

    Like

    • Patti,
      Knowing your background, I was hoping you would see and chime in … and I’ve got 4 more of these ready to go. If all goes as planned, the next one will be next Monday night/Tuesday. (of course subject to change ;)) Interestingly, I wrote these comments many years ago, yet they remain applicable today – so I guess that’s a commentary in itself. Thanks for sharing … and for the link (which I will visit).

      Like

  20. These are fabulous quotes Frank. As an x-teacher (private and public school) and a person where education saved my life, I am truly concerned about our educational system. Everything you listed needs to happen but will it? Education has become a business (Charter schools) or a black-hole of wasted funds (union issues), and our kids continue to get flushed down the toilet. I think gun laws will change before we ever see an overhaul of our educational system, and that is saying something.

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  21. Reform, in any system, is difficult and unfortunately tedious to say the least. I work in post-secondary, my focus on students with diagnosed learning difficulties. This usually encompasses a whole other frame of reference including accommodations and adaptive technology to even out the field for students who require alternate methods of learning. Young people today are facing a whole different ball game in employment searches and future career endeavors. They have been brought up (the majority) with computer skills at the ready. Video screens, smart boards and laptops abound. Cursive writing no longer exists on a scale and there has been much debate regarding failing a student. I’m not sure everything rests on the shoulders of educators, with the world tormented by violence and bloodshed at every corner. We do the best we can. We inspire. We focus. We assist. We support. AND we hope for the best. Parents do the same thing…It’s not as simple as saying “we need change”. Nothing ever is. Educators need tools, resources, books, software…tangible teaching materials. Support. I don’t think it’s fair to blame an educational system full of people who strive on a daily basis to do their jobs with little to work with. Parents try to do their best and so do teachers…working together is key. Let’s do more of that….

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  22. Kayjai,
    Unfortunately, the educational system has taken upon many of society’s ills. As we know, the classroom teacher can only do so much. No question that a parent-teacher-student partnership yield positive results. Yes … change is full of hurdles and difficulties … and in order for the system to change, the working parts within it must also change. On the other hand, here’s a past post with reasons preventing change. https://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/on-school-reform-the-difficulties/

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  23. Pingback: On Views of Education: Vol. 2 – Change | A Frank Angle

  24. Pingback: On View of Education: Vol. 3 – Leadership | A Frank Angle

  25. Pingback: On Views of Education: Vol. 4 – Teaching and Learning | A Frank Angle

  26. Pingback: On View of Education: Vol. 5 – Curriculum | A Frank Angle

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