Flashbacks: On Education

I spent many years as a teacher, and I pride myself on being reformed minded and a contrarian . Enjoy these perspectives from my Flashbacks … and I hope you comment on the post you visited.

On Connecting Egypt and Schools

With the power of instant news, we watched the events in Egypt as they happened. Whether the peaceful gathering of the masses or the few days of violence, there were and still are so many stories intertwined into this overthrow of a long-standing regime.

These two thoughts repeatedly played in my mind: the desire of people to be free and the peaceful nature of the masses – and each of these took me back to the 1960s and the way Martin Luther King treated civil rights. However, the Egyptians had something that Dr. King’s followers did not have: social media.

Some have described it tweets versus tanks. Columnist Kathleen Parker wrote these words:

Unarmed men and women inspired by tweets of freedom stared into the bullying armaments of dead ways. It was a stark image of the prolonged battle between good and evil that human apparently have been fated to fight. This time, enabled by what we casually call social media, evil finally may be outgunned.

Today, news travels faster than ever – and Revolution 2.0 has spread to other countries in the region – yet we are witnessing different behaviors by those with the tanks. Nonetheless, the events in Egypt have demonstrated social media’s power – and as this outstanding video shows, the numbers are staggering. (Sorry, this one can’t be embedded.)

Many people use social media as modern-day paparazzi to keep up with the latest news from someone they deem important. Businesses use social media to increase revenue through communication, customer service, and marketing. Many people (as me) use blogs to fuel our appetite for learning through informal means. Some corporate training departments are now incorporating social media tools. Meanwhile, can social media tools be the lightning rod to ignite public education reform? Do you really think schools entrenched in the industrial age model could react that fast?

On Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 55

On Home-School and Evolution
I have always realized that there is a high correlation between the home-schooling parents and their religious beliefs. With that in mind, it is understandable that conservative institutions write the textbooks. Let’s say 85% of home-schooling parents are religious conservatives – so what about someone in that 15%? Here is an interesting article about home-school textbook for biology and its treatment of evolution and Darwin.

On School Reform
I’ve been a reform-minded person regarding K-12 schooling for many years. I even posted reasons why education can’t reform. Here’s a good Wall Street Journal column about education reform.

On Linking the 1960s and the Tea Party
Although this may seem like a strange combination, this David Brooks column provides similarities and differences between the current Tea Party movement and the social left of the 1960s. I found his analysis to be quite interesting.

On the Cost of Health Insurance Reform
The bottom line on listening to both the proponents and the opponents in the health insurance debate is that everyone selective uses facts in order to support their point. Although I am on record as being against the current package, here following are worth mentioning:

Have a good weekend and hope you stop by over the weekend for the cartoon feature.

On School Reform: The Difficulties

The topic of school reform has been around for some time. A Nation at Risk served as the focus in the early 1980s. National standards came forward as a result in the late 80s, to be followed by state standards and state-mandated tests. Today, school reform still gets focused air time from presidential candidates every four years. With the election in the past, President Obama now seeks educational reform.

Meanwhile, how much has it changed? Is the change in the direction of reform or reinforcement of the status quo? This post focuses on why educational reform is more about rhetoric than substance, thus why they won’t change.

Schools are too busy aiming at perfecting the outdated Industrial Age model. The school calendar, curriculum, credit system, daily schedule, and many instructional methods are Industrial Age products. For those who don’t know, the Industrial Age is long gone.

Reason 1
If school developed a new idea that is against the norm, the community forces within the public will act to undo the change; thus returning it to the norm because an “it was good enough for me” attitude.

Reason 2
The public desires higher academic standards and expectations, as well as tougher discipline. Well, at least until it effects them.

Reason 3
As a group, educators are not agents of change. It’s their inability to think outside of the Industrial Age model that will help keep schools with their current rut. Much change with schools is illusionary, insignificant, or based to reinforce the Industrial Age model.

Reason 4
Unquestionably, and supported by law, conditions of work are subject to the collective bargaining table. Therefore, in order for change to occur, the teacher union must not only be involved, it must be willing to change.

Reason 5
For change to occur, educational leadership must be willing to take risk and simultaneously challenge the public. Since such a combination jeopardizes their job security, the chance of this happening is slim.

Reason 6
Schools are currently on a paper chase with publicized, mandatory-testing programs. Interestingly, the majority of the tests are based on content standards from the Industrial Age. Schools have spent much time and energy to align their curriculum to these tests/standards, thus any deviation away into something new would be at the risk of scores.

Reason 7
Meaningful change involves a pronounced period of chaos, which would probably be accompanied by lower test scores. Although going through this phase could lead to high standards and results, schools have a tendency to retreat during these situations.

Reason 8
With the ongoing race to score well and be acclaimed to the public, schools work hard to place a positive spin on anything and everything. If schools are as good as the claim, why should they change?

Reason 9
Picture a school hallway as a large conglomerate with each room representing individual companies. As teachers focus on their own classroom, fewer focus outside the box: about the grade level or department; and even fewer address a bigger school-wide mentality.

Reason 10
With a shedding of responsibilities to others, education current lacks balanced accountability. Parents, students, and school administrators shift some of their responsibility to teachers. Surprise! They also have legitimate responsibilities.

Closing Thought

Years ago I heard a member of a state Department of Education say something like this: “Given the system we have, there’s no doubt in my mind that the teacher’s in this state are doing better. After all, I have the stats to prove it. The real question is, is this the system we want to perfect?”