On View of Education: Vol. 3 – Leadership

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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 described me as, the best devil’s advocate she had ever been around. Of course, I countered her comment that I wasn’t being the devil’s advocate because I was just being myself.

In the world of educational conformity, I was often the voice in the wilderness. I 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. You 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’ve numbered them only for reference.

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Today’s Topic: Leadership
1) Listening to the administrators and school boards across this state promote to their public how well their schools are doing causes me to ask this question: If schools are doing so well, why do we need to change?

2) Statements as look how far we’ve come are excuses for the status quo, grand illusions of change, and lack any vision of where to go. When examining where we’ve been, the point of comparison should be where we need to go – not the past.

3) Even if a mindset of reform or even progress toward reform took place in a department, a grade level, or a building staff, would central office let it continue? I’m not so sure because our district’s leaders understand reform, but they don’t believe it. Their beliefs are demonstrated by their actions, and those action don’t demonstrate a restructuring attitude. Too much time whitewashing creates an illusion. They will take credit for success, then painfully point the figure to others when something falls down. Sugar coating numbers only dulls the pain, but cures nothing.

4) Is the educational system too much of a dinosaur to move? (Too much inertia fits.) Probably so. The system is very political, so leaders cannot take risks, and change is way too risky of a proposition. Then again, the lack of leadership coupled with a lack of vision will keep education wollering in the mud of mediocrity while continuing to promote the false illusions of success and change.

5) Central Office leadership tells us that some kids need more time to achieve, and should get it without penalty. On the other hand, building leadership tells us grades need to be completed by a certain time on a certain day. This is an example of what one says doesn’t match with what one does. Therefore, no matter what Central Office says, entering “Incomplete” to give a student more time is not really an alternative.

6) Because I use Crisco oil, I’m just as qualified to lead Crisco production as the public is to run education.

7) Teachers and all level of administrators say students are their top concern. I disagree because students should be the top concern of teachers, while teachers are top concern of building administrators, and building administrators are the top concern of district administrators – thus calling this “semantics” is BS.

8) The public runs education and government. What does the public complain about the most? Education and government.

9) Isn’t good administrator an oxymoron?

Previous posts in the series

54 thoughts on “On View of Education: Vol. 3 – Leadership

  1. It’s often said that education and medicine are somehow different from other services so they must not be left to the discipline of market forces. However, the point you are making in different words, is that incentives matter. The system will never be reformed because there are no incentives to do so. Public education will always deliver poor service at a high price (yes, we do pay for public education) for the same reason that the U.S. Postal Service continues to deliver poor service every year, because there is no competition.


    • Malcolm,
      Interesting point about the lack of market forces working to maintain the status quo. I’ve previously stated “take the public out of it, thus privatize education”, which may saying the same thing but from a different perspective .. in other words, good point!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So many “leaders”/admnistrators have spent very little time actually teaching, in a classroom. Many of them who did teach for awhile didn’t really like it and couldn’t wait to take enough stupid “education” grad courses so they could qualify for cushier, better paying jobs as administrators. They also knew how to play the politics, and voilà—the least qualified and least caring to actually teach get to be the bosses of the teachers! (Don’t even get me started on the toxicity of the unions in this whole stew.)


    • Cynthia,
      I used to refer to them youngsters as “three-years wonders” because (at the time) three years of teaching experience was my state’s minimum requirement for a school administration certificate. Then again, can’t teach? … try administration or the guidance department. (… and to be fair, one can be a better administrator or counselor than they were a teacher).

      Meanwhile, when it comes to change & reform, unions play a major role in either preventing it or promoting it … and (in my view) do more to prevent it … and yes, a story in itself.


  3. I’m making my way back into the blogging world after being away, and this is the first post I’ve read in more than a week. I smiled while reading each quote, because I could definitely associate your views with perspectives you’ve often shared. I am often the “identified devil’s advocate” in the group and I’m going to remember to counter next time with your response–“I’m just being myself.” Leadership in education and government are often oxymorons. I agree with you. A person can’t be a leader and still heavily invested in covering their backside! Stated goals are so often in direct opposition to the rules and regulations. If a person thinks strategically, it often falls to him or her to be the one to mention that “the rubber doesn’t meet the road.” And by the way, I’m very glad I didn’t miss another Life: The Musical!


    • Debra,
      Welcome back and I hope the wedding went well.

      Cheers to a comrade who is a natural devil’s advocate. Building administrators don’t have an easy job, but they justify playing both sides of the fence – which is pathetic in my eyes. I can’t recall (without looking), but this post is the third in the series, thus the previous two are linked at the bottom. I imagine you missed the second one (which was last week).

      See you at Life: The Musical!


  4. I dunno Frank, The best teacher, looking back at my road to higher learning was, an still is. myself. Am not even certain I could define what education is in the present tense or what was in the past tense. It’s beginning to feel more like an ‘abstraction’ given what I read. A kind of foreign state. Administrators of Education has that ring of Science Fiction to it.


    • Calvin,
      There is a lot of truth that the student is also the teacher. Whether drill & practice or researching the topic, the student is controlling what they take in and can do. Regardless of the skill of the person in front of the classroom, that mere fact creates a helpless feeling.


  5. As for leadership, the Secretary of Education in here has a degree in Political Science, has never thought in his life, never worked in the education are before. He’s worked on radio and TV, and there you have him passing education reforms because he knows best. But then, the head of the Department of Health and Human Services is a woman better known for being the wife of another politician. She was a “star” handling the Ebola crisis.
    Public administration lacks leadership all around.


    • Leo,
      There is no doubt that government officials are appointed for the loyalty to the one appointing. In our case, the Secretary of Education was (I think) the Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools, which is quite a large system.


  6. Thanks for including No. 8. I’ve been thinking about that point more and more as I work to complete my full report on why the American public has historically had such a low regard for members of Congress.


  7. Frank, I have often opined about the subject of education, but it has been only from the perspective of a recipient of the process, not as a teacher. I am humbled by the profundity of your assessments – well done.

    It occurs to me that the purest form of teaching just might have been in the era of one-room schools in which all the grades were together as a social entity, ladies were free to teach relatively unsupervised, and by chance the teacher had talent and imagination. My mother was such a one.

    I have only one other comment: Dead Poets Society.


    • Jim,
      Love your analogy of the one-room school house. Now that teacher had to management a lot, and thinking about the limited resources at the time is truly mind boggling. Cheers to your mother’s efforts!

      Thanks for the kind words. As I mention in the intro, I was one who thought outside the box and challenged the mainstream … and usually with little success – but hey – at least I stood for something. My administrators in the 90s made this collection easy because all I had to do is listen to what they say and then watch what they do.


  8. #7 offers real insight. Odd that school administration has gotten so top heavy. Instead of the old concept of having a principal and one, maybe 2 assistant principals, the school office is very crowed with what was said to improve school organization and efforts: There a principal – often one for each grade level now, an AP for curriculum, one for discipline( may have one for each grade levels if using the “school within school concept”, one to manage finances and budget, one may handle materials and textbooks, one as a parent point contact….and it goes on. Lots of titles and jobs, little improved student situations. Lots and lots of them being pulled out of the buildings to admin. meetings….costly in many ways
    You made som excellent points again, Frank


    • Mouse,
      Lots of layers, then again, some of it can be attributed to growth within a district. Nonetheless, a principal is the one calling my statement as semantics, to which I probably replied that that is a cop-out for not believing and practicing that belief system.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bothers me when the school has shrunk in student numbers yet administration at both school and main office level has doubled or tripled in size…and meeting more than that. My dad was a principal. When he stepped out of the classroom ( and took a pay cut) into the main office as AP, his old school principal told his 2 AP’s I want one of you walking those halls at all times. Talk to the kids. It heads off trouble, and you can see what learning/activity is actually going on inside the classrooms. Dad was always in volatile diverse schools in poor areas, yet the walk the halls and call the kids by name was credited for keeping a lid on trouble, intruders out, kids in classes, and more learning happening – teachers learned the APs were there to facilitate, not spy on them. More friendly neighborhood than war zone in feeling. But that’s old school….and you know how people want to avoid anything like that. (giggles)
        I have a feeling we had similar reactions by administrators when we were in the classroom


        • OH my … hats off to your dad for being in a school seems to have had its share of troubles. A friend and I were talking (his experience is primarily in community colleges and is on a local school board) … I asked if students in an affluent community were more important that students in a low-income community … and he asked with a strong NO … so then we discussed the discrepancy in funding at the two schools. I wonder if any state has funding right (I don’t know).

          Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, some of these were pretty harsh. DId you write these or say these? In what context? Just wondering. I’ve thought many of these things myself, but never came right out and said them so directly!


    • Lorna,
      As I state in the intro, I tended to speak my mind. These quotes are lifted from various writing assignments. However, I would imagine I said these in various conversations – especially within our department (whose ears heard a lot more).


  10. Frank, always march to the tune of your own beat. I love uniqueness in people and if we could all embrace it, this world would be an amazing place. And you must tell me something about Aquarians 🙂

    And please don’t forget to complete my Reader Survey.


  11. Taken without context I still found myself mostly in agreement with each quote. I am a huge supporter of the public education system philosophically. I believe strongly each citizen (child) has the right to the very best education. My problem isn’t with the philosophy but with the execution and with the means of funding. Fundamentally, I believe there must be a better way to provide equity and equality within a public system. But then I am fundamentally in part a socialist and believe we should level the playing field and give every child a even field to start from that doesn’t rely upon the poverty or wealth of their parents to determine the outcome of the child.

    Fundamentally though, taken without context I found myself nodding as I read.


    • Val,
      True, these are out of context, and as I say in the post, each quote stands on its own. But I feel comfortable saying that the context of these writings were about change and/or where the school should go. States fund public schools differently, and I don’t know if any state has it right … but I can say that I don’t believe that students in affluent districts are more important than students in low-income districts … then again, do states look at that in their funding?


      • many states do only to the point, schools in affluent neighborhoods get more, aren’t falling apart, have better infrastructure, computer labs, etc. In truth, in many states, schools in affluent neighborhoods have access to better teachers because those districts pay better. States are not the entire control, districts are. So yes, affluence is an absolute influence on who gets the better education in many states.


        • Oh yes … and those in affluent districts pay more local taxes for their schools … but because I don’t know the tax structures/funding methods in 49 states, I took the high road.


        • Yes they do, so what?

          Thus my comment, the poverty or affluence of your parents should not define your opportunities.

          I have no children, does that mean I should pay no taxes for the schools in my district? It is a common argument. I want all children, all of them no matter the social position or financial standing of their parents to have a level playing field and the same opportunities. II want all schools to afford them the same opportunities. I want my tax dollar to ensure all children are able to pursue their dreams, with the same vigor and same tools. no matter the poverty or wealth of their parents, clearly this is what is ‘right’ and what is ‘fair’.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. I must be a devil’s advocate too, since I agree with you! Leadership too often speaks a good game on wanting vision and improvement, but really putting time and money into making a change against the status quo never quite happens. The business of education is built around all the old ways and to take them apart impacts so many things. It would be easier in some ways to just start over. My former institution–a two year college–has just made a change. It is now one of the two year colleges that will be awarding four-year degrees. Not a bad idea, but not necessarily a change that will improve the education being provided.


    • Patti,
      As I said in one of the previous posts, shutting down for a year may be necessary for meaningful change … but that won’t happen. Cheers to your former school breaking the mold. Of course the devil’s advocate in me wonders if how much really changed.


  13. Being the “art teacher” put me in a rarefied category…only because artists are categorically stereotyped in many cases.
    Marching to one’s own drum in the art classroom was “easier” but not exclusively. There were always rules. There will always be rules…I’ll have to march with Elyse and take an incomplete on this one, aFa! Good good quotes!
    Still frozen to the flag pole???


    • Raye,
      Oh yes … With some individual work going on at the same time, art teachers know how to juggle! Much praise from here.

      Still cold, but not brutally cold as we took a long walk yesterday afternoon … light snow on the way (1-2″ by tomorrow)


  14. It’s very sad to read that the vast majority of students today can’t name a senator or house rep from their own state, very sad when they can’t name the first president of our country, very sad when they think the first president was 1912 – I mean seriously? But they want free community college, when they can’t even get through “free” public school (k-12) – because the folks I just mentioned were graduates! But, these same kids look damn good on a ski slope or in their beach attire.

    A friend a mine young daughter, just turned 28, is a clinical pharmacist and is considering becoming an Anesthesiologist (yeah, more schooling through medical school and will be paying her own way). But here is my point, this girl is really beautiful (good looks, the package) and has recently moved to a new town – do you think she can find someone to date? No, she has gone and joined a number of organizations and to her dismay – all these great looking guys, but many when they open their mouth and don’t know the 1st President? Well like she said they are dumb as *** and she isn’t wasting her time.

    Our kids are ranking lower and lower on the scale compared to other developed nations – it’s not just the educational system, oh it and the unions have played a large part in this “great” downfall. Whatever happened to the quality of material being taught, why are books distorting facts, why are teachers getting into sex education – I mean really? Try technology, a great innovative method for furthering our education, but what do we find – the kids spend their time on cell phones, iphones, games, fb, twitter, instagram, etc. to the point of loosing the whole point. Where are the parents (not all mind you), but these kids need their parents (and all that goes with parenting)? Schools have become the babysitters and meal providers (breakfast, lunch, dinner) – I mean really, and when do the dear parents take some responsibility? What about the violence in school, do you have some great candidates as teachers – why would any body want the job when you could get shot at, beat up, or false lies started only to loose your life, dignity or reputation. Good quality people aren’t going to step-up. Schools and administrations have become political magnets and breeds corruption at the highest levels.

    We have created some incredibly dangerous conditions in our schools, with kids in the system today and recent graduates that are suppose to be our leaders tomorrow – people we are all going to rely on for life-changing decisions. The ship has not only sailed, it’s way off course and we are hitting the iceberg – I fear our ship is already going down. What a damn shame for something that was totally preventable ~

    Sorry to have commented so much on this, but I’m really tired of all the sorry excuses – life is not one big lollipop, we have some very serious problems. Garbage in, garbage out – I have no children, but have paid a lot of hard-earned dollars into the tax system to pay for this garbage. Think I’m not upset?


      • No not at all Frank – I did say a lot, fragmented in some part, and perhaps should have deleted the whole response. There is a whole lot influencing our classrooms today ~

        I think your points were thought-provoking, elicited some strong reactions and responses, on point, but not excuses. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I wrote my response. It’s not you or your points, I’m frustrated that as a nation we’ve allowed this train wreck to happen.

        Thank you for bringing this up – I think you are and were passionate about your profession. You have a right to be so ~ the system is very broke, US kids are paying the price.


        • Mary,
          I knew you were releasing a lot of frustration, and that’s OK, so my question was for clarification … so let’s say all is well .. that’s is between us.:)

          If I could list the reasons for the problems in our education system, I would say (in no order) the community, parents, district administration, building administration, teachers, unions, politicians, state departments of education, publishers, and whoever I inadvertently left out.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Victoria,
      Hey hey … good to see you. Just so you know, at least 2 more in this series. BTW … and the last act of Life: The Musical is this week. (See the current post). Hope all is well.


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

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

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