This post will actually be a preface to addressing current problems in education. Please realize, as you read through my commentary on educational issues that I am typically an extremely optimistic person. Still, I feel that I need to set the stage by trudging through the current issues, which may sound a tad negative and hopeless at times. There is light at the end of the tunnel, so please stick with me.
I often see a lot of potential in people, organizations, and situations. I suppose that’s the teacher side of me. It is any teachers job to look at kids, and do everything they can to buff away the rough edges, to help the world, as well as themselves, see what we have seen in them all along; greatness, talent, beauty, and genius! I believe it is a gift/curse of any good educator to see the potential in EVERY student.
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
Still, I also have a side of me that favors being practical. That’s the engineering side of me. You cannot always simply look at potential, unless you want to be constantly disappointed at the lack of desire of others to attain to it. Concerning systems, there is also a huge need to be able to look past the mere potential of something. There is some point that you have to be able to look at a situation, and back up far enough to get an unclouded view of the chaos. After you have taken everything in, it is important to identify the cause issues, and take realistic, intentional steps to find solutions to them. To do anything else is, at its essence, no different than a dog chasing its tail. The only thing that gets accomplished is that the dog gets dizzy, and ends up doing the same thing again and again because nothing was really accomplished after a lot of really hard work.
I am beginning with this because I’m going to address issues with our current education system, and explain why the current options we are pursuing to fix it are merely bandages on gushing wounds. I don’t want you to think I am just another ineffective naysayer. At some point we need to stop chasing our proverbial tail, and actually begin to move forward in our pursuit of the best ways to educate our youth.
Currently, the United States is looking at several options to fix our education system. Some of these ventures include:
- Creating accountability for students, teachers, and schools
- Increasing the length of the school day
- Increasing the length of the school year
- Raising the bar on the standards we are requiring from every student
In the midst of addressing these fixes, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
First, you have to understand that in designing anything, you have to keep your end goal in mind. I would argue that this is the biggest disconnect in fixing the U.S. education system. We all think we have the same goal in mind, but realistically, people have several different goals that at their core conflict with each other. Is it possible for us to put aside personal agendas, to work together, and to find something that works for all of us? Or will it just be another case of the old adage: “If you try to make everyone happy, no one will be happy.”? If the latter is the case, we should look at options that are not nationally based. Are we even willing to do that?
Second, once it is decided what our actual goals are, we need to think outside the box on the BEST ways to accomplish them.
Next, we have to consider our constraints (the things that limit what plans we are actually able to use).
- How much $$$ do we have?
- How much time do we have?
- What will transitioning to a new system look like?
- How much buy in will we have from communities, teachers, legislators, etc?
- Will we have the manpower, technology infrastructure, etc. to see the transition through?
- Are the fixes a temporary fix, or will they encourage long-term change with the ability to adapt to an ever-changing world?
Finally, we need to come up with a solid, well thought out, long-term plan that is grounded in realistic vision, and has the opportunity to survive through short-term criticism. We need to communicate that vision well, and help give people an understanding of where we are going. Most importantly, it is essential to keep in mind ramifications of plans, and how they affect the people in the trenches… teachers, parents, and students.
In my next installment on “There’s not enough time in the day”, I will specifically address the current issues listed above. In an effort to keep my posts fairly short, they are piling up on me a little. The next post may be a little more lengthy, so I can finally get to the fun stuff… making math and learning fun and productive!
As with all of my blogs, I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I believe I have a perspective that makes sense. I welcome any of your comments, suggestions, and constructive criticism. Thanks for being willing to work through this with me!!