For as long as I can remember we have talked about reforming, changing, re-inventing and re-imagining education and yet the outcomes our schools produce, today, are not much different than they were last year, 10 years ago, or even 20 or more years ago.
We have implemented countless ideas and innovations; we have initiated long lists of new programs; and, we have introduced a profusion of digital technologies, teaching methodologies, and learning materials. Each of these efforts have had an impact on some children; but rarely beyond a local level and, rarer still, has the impact penetrated the boundaries of our segregated neighborhoods and communities. The problem is neither a lack of ideas nor a prevalence of bad intentions; and, neither is it a lack of good teachers. The problem is our intransigence.
What we have never done is examine the logic behind everything we do, systemically. Notwithstanding a few experiments, we have never changed the way we structure the education process and the way we guide students along the path dictated by academic standards, from Kindergarten to twelfth grade. We have never overhauled a scoring system that is misdirected and misguided. It is as if we do not know that how we keep score drives how we play the game?
We have gone overboard with standardized testing that measures student achievement and retention as inadequately as it measures teacher effectiveness. The one thing high-stakes, standardized testing has achieved is to distract us from our essential purpose and immerse us in the blame game.
When will we acknowledge a body of compelling evidence, gathered over the decades, suggesting what we have been asking our teachers to do has not worked for tens of millions of American students? We waste millions of dollars on testing, along with the precious time of our teachers and students, because we think it will hold teachers accountable, never stopping to consider the people who should be held accountable are the politicians, policy makers, and our education leaders. These are the people responsible for determining what we teach and how.
Think about this for a moment.
Which is more likely, that our nation’s finest colleges and universities, and the millions of teachers they educate, are ineffectual or, that the education process is flawed?
Children whom we consider to be our nation’s most precious assets, and the very people on whom the future of our society will depend, are languishing. When will we learn disappointing outcomes cannot be explained by superficial analyses and shallow thinking? The longer we put off facing the truth, the greater the harm to millions of young lives.
It seems to be the perception that those millions of young lives include mostly blacks and other minorities, but white students are well-represented in the population of American students who are victimized by our obsolete education process.
Let us be clear about this. The obsolescence of the American education process is doing harm to a far broader population of children than we have imagined. The damage to these children is pervasive as is the damage it does to our society. Nothing will alter this reality until we rethink all we ask teachers to do to prepare kids for a meaningful future.
There are many success stories of young men and women of color who go on to non-stereotypical careers, but they remain the exceptions. We have been talking about and protesting inequality in education since the 1950s and the only thing we have accomplished with certainty is breaking down the barriers to entry to public schools.
Despite our efforts, over a span of decades, we keep the schoolhouse to jailhouse express filled beyond capacity. We have over-filled poor urban and rural communities with streams of young men and women who completed twelve to thirteen years of schooling that fails to give them choices. With but a few exceptions, these young people continue to live and raise their families in segregated pockets of poverty. As mothers and fathers, they send their own children off to school with little hope the cycle of poverty, powerlessness, and hopelessness will be broken.
We know this is the reality for black kids, but how can we not know of the impact on millions of white students. If we look at the first two decades of this 21st Century, we see evidence of large numbers of Americans from all demographic groups, who are insufficiently literate and numerate to:
- Participate in their own governance and be motivated to exercise their right to vote;
- Understand the science behind the challenges we face in our natural world;
- Shed the satchel full of prejudices with which so many Americans have been raised; and,
- Understand how their own decisions and actions contribute to the very problems about which they complain so loudly.
We have become adept at blaming everyone but ourselves for our problems and we shirk responsibility. We, all of us, are the problem.
Is it not time to stop blaming our teachers for problems over which they have little or no control? Is it not time to radically alter the way we teach our nation’s children to provide true equality for all Americans? It is not all that difficult if only we would step away from our classrooms and look at the whole picture.
Follow this link and let me show you one way this can be accomplished