The Hawkins Model© – the Perfect Solution for the Post-Covid Challenge in Our Schools!

What we hear on the news, night after night, is how concerned educators and parents are that their kids have fallen behind during the almost a year and a half of a pandemic that has placed the entire world in turmoil. It seems only logical we are striving to figure out how to help students catch up. The question is, catch up with what?

Educators and parents are encouraged to step back and rethink their concern about the need for students to catch up and get back to where they would have been had their lives not been so unexpectedly disrupted, for what seemed like forever. Unfortunately, none of us can go back to where we used to be or where we think we should be. Life is forcing us to create a new normal and this presents us with an incredible opportunity to change the course of history.  

Educators are preparing to make decisions that will have long-term consequences for every single one of our children, so let us be sure to make the best decisions possible. The truth is, we cannot help students catch up nor should we.

We must change our perspective so that we can understand our students are not behind—”they are where they are,” to paraphrase a popular idiom.

Our challenge must not be to return to our practice of pushing kids ahead more quickly than they are ready, which has long been one of the most devastating flaws in our existing education process. Most of our students have been pushed ahead before they were ready from one lesson to the next, since Kindergarten.

Educators worry about test results, but what test results have revealed, for decades, is whole populations of students who are behind where someone thought they ought to be. Our interpretation should be something else, altogether. What test results reveal is that what we have been doing has not worked for millions of children. Do we really want to repeat the mistakes of the past?

Let us re-clarify, for ourselves as well as for our students, that our mission is and has always been:

“to help children learn as much as they are able at their own best pace, in route to whatever future they will choose for themselves, some day.”

We must have no illusions our children will all end up in the same place on graduation day, all headed in the same direction, any more than we should cling to the illusion they should all be at the same point today, or any other day, on an arbitrary academic development track.   

Not only is it true “they are where they are!” it is equally true “what they know is what they know, not what we think they ought to know!”

It is from what they know, today, that our schools should restart the marathon, helping students along  a path to get where they will someday want or need to be, at their own best pace; not a pace designated by arbitrary standards and schedules.

A truth we already know but must be reminded of is millions of children start from behind on their first day of school and most of them never catch up; not because they are incapable of catching up rather because the education process is not structured so that helping them catch up is a priority.

The Hawkins Model© is designed to do what we should have been doing all along; determine where kids are on an academic preparedness and emotional development continuum, beginning on the day they become our responsibility, and then tailor an academic plan to help them progress, one success after another, toward whatever future they will choose for themselves, someday.

Our initial goal must be to help all students build a solid academic foundation and a healthy self-esteem on which they can create their own unique futures. It does not matter who gets where, first; what matters is learning enough to give themselves meaningful choices.

What matters, whether we are talking about reading, writing, math, science, social studies, or learning how to ride a bicycle, is not how fast they learn, or how quickly they make up lost ground. The only thing that matters is whether they have learned to ride that bike and utilize everything else they have learned to get to where they need to be or to go.  Our objective must be applied academics—how well can young people apply in real life, all they have learned.

We do our students no favor by pushing them beyond the cusp of their capabilities. Instead, we must remind ourselves, repeatedly, everything our students learn today becomes the pre-requisite knowledge and skill they will need to learn the lessons of tomorrow and all the tomorrows that follow. If they reach a point where their portfolio of pre-requisite knowledge and skills is empty, we have set them up for failure; the kind of failure from which many of them will never recover.

If we began today, by this September of 2021, we could implement the principles and practices of The Hawkins Model©, adapted for the age and grade level of every student. From that point forward, students would begin moving from one success to the next where they will always find themselves well-prepared.  

One of the exciting things about teaching kids to think of success as a process is once they master that process, their pace of learning will accelerate until the next thing we know they have progressed further than they could ever have gone had our minds been focused on catching up.

Troubling Questions for Troubled Times

In what kind of world do we want our children and grandchildren to grow up? What kind of people do we want them to become? What questions would you add?

Do we want our children and grandchildren to believe all people are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, or that some people are entitled to privileges because of who they are?  

Do we want them to treat people with respect and dignity or to think it okay to insult, ridicule, accuse, or attack other people?

Do we want them to be kind to one another or hateful?

Do we want our children to view the colors, shapes, and sizes of our bodies and the languages we speak as varying shades of beauty or do we want our differences to be a basis for judging others as good or bad?

Do we want them to live in a world where all lives matter, or a place where some lives matter more than others, and some seem to matter not at all?

Can we teach them police reform is not advocacy for lawlessness rather a demand, through better training, that law enforcement professionals rise to a higher standard?

How do we teach our children and grandchildren the best way to protect our rights is to protect the rights of others?

How do we teach them rights must be balanced by responsibility?

Do we want our children to learn to respect freedom of religion or learn it is okay to impose their religious beliefs on others?

How do we teach them their rights do not allow them to infringe on the rights of others?

How do we balance the interests of individuals against the good of the community?

When did it become okay to view people who disagree with us on important matters as evil, or unpatriotic, or un-American?

What happened to the days when there were issues about which reasonable men and women could disagree?

When things go wrong, shall we teach our children to find someone to blame or should we teach them to work together to find solutions that work for all?

Will the interests of society be better served when all children have a quality education or should a quality education be reserved for a fortunate few?

Do we want an education process in which all kids learn how to be successful and how to develop their  potential or an education process that functions like a competition in which some kids win, and others lose?

Do we want our children to think of science as an honest attempt to understand how the universe works, or as a strategy to justify a point of view?

Is history an opportunity to learn from the past experiences of human beings and their governments, or is history something we are free to change to justify whatever we may have done or want to do?

Is it okay if the way we teach children does not work for every student?

Do we teach our kids to always tell the truth or that it is okay to lie if it will help them get whatever they want or do whatever they want to do?

When did the truth become whatever we choose it to be?

How will life be for our children if they live in the world where there are no fundamental truths on which we can all agree?

Let us not forget we are all who and what we learned to be.

A Story of a Special Man!

If you wonder how much of a difference one individual can make, consider this story about a man named Charlie. His life offered a wonderful example of the power of relationships. He passed away a few years ago but he lives on in the hearts of many of the people he touched, both students and teachers.  Every few years, I like to pull the story out, dust if off, and delight in the memory of this special man with whom I spent only a few moments of my life.

Charlie made an enormous difference in the lives of literally thousands of young people and hundreds of adults in the high school all three of my children attended.  One of the teachers who worked with him shared Charlie’s story in a letter to the editor of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, a few weeks after his death. Otherwise, few outside of the Wayne High School community would have known about this special man, and the quiet but enormous impact he made.

Charlie was a black man working in a high school that was somewhere between ten to fifteen percent black. He did not have an impressive title, did not make a great deal of money, had no formal authority, there were no letters after his name, and he was neither a star athlete nor a celebrity.  Charlie’s stature as a powerful positive leader came only from the force of his personality, his dedication to his job, his love of people, and his God-given ability to make people feel important. He was a human being who, out of the pure generosity of a loving heart, accepted responsibility for making his corner of the world a better place.

I first heard about Charlie years ago when my kids were in high school, but it did not make a great impression on me.  I just assumed Charlie was one of the kids at school.  The first time, and one of the few times I met Charlie, I was working as a substitute teacher in this high school I thought I knew so well.  Like other teachers, I was monitoring the hallways during the passing period, standing by the door to my classroom. It had been a rough day and I was reeling from difficult period of a math lab class when this man came up to me. 

He was dressed in a suit and tie and it never would have occurred to me he was a custodian until he grabbed a broom from a cart he had left a few feet away and swept up some debris from the floor.

“How is it going, today? Is there anything I can do for you?” He asked.  “You just call me if you need something,” he continued and then proceeded to rattle off his name and extension number.  He shook my hand and smiled before continuing down the corridor and I watched him, trying to figure out who in the heck he was. 

My eyes followed him as he spoke to a couple students he passed. From the smiles on their faces I can only assume he was smiling, also.  Moving on, he gave another student a high five, and then stopped to pick up a couple of broken pencils that lay on the floor. 

A dozen yards farther down the hallway a young girl had been leaning against the wall, alone.  I had noticed her earlier as she had a lonely and forlorn look about her and I suspected she had been crying.  As this custodian drew closer, he drifted over to her and then stopped and smiled at her and put his hand on her shoulder. 

 This made me immediately suspicious because we are told, frequently and pointedly, not to touch the students, especially members of the opposite gender.  I could not hear the words that were spoken, but after a few seconds the girl offered up an embarrassed smile, followed seconds later by a laugh.  Charlie lingered a moment, in quiet conversation, and then sauntered off, dishing out more high fives to students as he passed.  When I looked back the girl was still there, standing in the same spot but she stood a little taller and had a smile on her face.  Whatever this janitor had said to her must have been something she had needed to hear.

 Later in the day, in the faculty lounge, I asked a teacher about the custodian in the suit and tie.  He laughed, and said, “well, that would have been Charlie.”  He went on to say, “he’s a very special guy around here and both the kids and staff love him.” 

 I asked others about him, including my youngest daughter, now a teacher herself.  Whoever I asked, just the mention of his name would evoke a smile, and everyone proceeded to tell me pretty much the same story. “He is everybody’s friend and always has a kind word for you,” my daughter explained.

Charlie, God rest his charitable soul, was a beautiful human being and positive leader.  He took his job seriously and took pride in keeping things clean for the students and teachers.  Even more importantly, he reached out to people to share his positive attitude.  He accepted responsibility for making this high school a better place and for making its people feel special and important. 

He had a special ability to sense when someone—teacher, student, or substitute —needed a kind word, a high five, or a warm smile and I am certain Charlie never wasted an opportunity to share his gifts.  None of these activities could be found in the job description of a school custodian but Charlie made them a part of his daily routine. They were a part of who he was.

This man demonstrated it was not necessary to have a title, formal authority, or even someone’s permission to be a leader and to make a positive difference to the world and its people.  All one needs is a belief that people—all people—deserve our best effort and that we can make a difference. While doing what most people would consider an unimportant and mundane job, this man changed the world around him. He did it by reaching out to people with a generous heart, simple acts of kindness, reassuring words, and a genuine desire to make each of them feel special.

Gifts such as this may brighten only a moment in an otherwise stressful day, but we never know how much of a difference we make when we give the best of ourselves with joy and affirmation.  It is a lesson from which all can all learn when we wonder if what we do matters. We can choose to believe every job, well done, adds a little beauty to the world and every smile or act of affirmation can make a difference in the life of another human being.

No doubt Charlie believed he had the most important job in the world. By having a relationship with each of them, Charlie made a difference in the lives of twelve hundred students and a hundred members of a school’s faculty and staff, while keeping their school clean for them, year after year after year.

It was the relationships that mattered. Given what we can learn from Charlie, imagine what a teacher can do in his or her classroom by doing the best job of which he or she is capable and by making every student feel special and important.

Relationships are everything in life and they are everything in teaching.

God bless you, Charlie.

Why #SchoolChoice is an Unfortunate Distraction rather than a Solution for the Challenges Facing Education in America.

So much of the energy devoted to education reform and improvement, in recent years, has been focused on charter schools and the “school choice” movement. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the concept of a charter school, what was once an intriguing idea has become an unfortunate distraction to our efforts to transform education in America. 

In one respect, charter schools are just like so many of our nation’s public schools in that some are more successful than others and others are not successful at all. The value of charters, if they were utilized as initially conceived, is they provide an opportunity to create a laboratory, if you will, to experiment with new and innovative methodologies, outside the framework of the traditional public school system. The charter concept is now used for a totally different purpose. Advocates have concluded that letting parents choose the best school for their children is the solution for education in America.  

On the surface, the logic seems to resonate and the need for lotteries provides evidence of demand for some charters. The other side of that coin is an inability to meet demand in a local community begs the question of how “school choice” can serve the needs of fifty million American children.  This is one of the fundamental flaws in the argument that “school choice” is the solution for the U.S.  If creating charter schools for every child is impractical, what is the purpose of “school choice?”

Are “school choice” leaders content to offer a way for some families to escape what are perceived to be bad schools, assuming they win the lottery. Are they okay with letting the rest fend for themselves? What are the consequences for public schools who must operate with fewer resources and, possibly, a more challenging student population?

Another flaw is the pervasive belief that low academic achievement is the result of bad schools and bad  teachers.  Parochial schools and charters can also be found on both ends of the performance continuum. That aggregate academic performance has not responded to a bevy of innovative methodologies and initiatives, introduced over a period of decades, ought to give reformers pause.

If the problem is not who teaches and where but a consequence of what they teach and how, we are on a path to inevitable failure. We must be willing to open our minds to the obvious and address the dysfunctionality of the education process at work in schools throughout the U.S.  Ignoring the true cause is comparable to treating Covid 19 with a litany of antibiotics that cannot, now, and will never kill the coronavirus. Incorrect diagnoses rarely produce favorable prognoses.

If we want better outcomes for our students, we must do more than change school buildings and teachers. We must change what we ask teachers and students to do and what we expect them to accomplish. To paraphrase motivational icon, Zig Ziglar, if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll keep getting the same disappointing outcomes.

It is not that advocates of “school choice” are bad people rather they are misguided. The only future the “school choice” movement can offer America is an education system that will become increasingly more bifurcated. It is a future with many winners, to be sure, but with far more losers because the push toward privatization siphons the lifeblood from public school districts, whatever their track record. We must reduce the number of Americans who could be counted among the “have nots,” not widen the chasm that separates us.

Now, looking back, we can tabulate the opportunity cost from years of disappointing academic achievement because we chose the wrong path to meaningful education reform. The other portion  of that opportunity cost would be benefits forgone; benefits that would have accrued for the millions of our sons and daughters whose academic distress could have been replaced by successful achievement.  

Click on this link to examine The Hawkins Model© and you will learn more about the dysfunctionality of the existing education process and how we can change the future for every girl and boy in America. You are also asked to believe it is not too late to act; in fact, this may be the perfect time to make a change.

Kids Learn from Experience to Acquire Pre-requisite knowledge: A Lesson on Dysfunctionality

Even though we do not think about it, how we learn in the classroom is just a variation of learning from experience. Lesson presentations, practice assignments, review sessions, quizzes, and tests are all experiences gained in the classroom.

In education, we place too much focus on mistakes and failure.  Of course, we learn from mistakes; in fact, that is where much learning begins.  We try something we want to learn but rarely do we accomplish it, to our satisfaction, after the first attempt. We must strive with determination.  With each unsuccessful attempt, we gain more experience which, in turn, allows us to make adjustments that produce better outcomes.  For most of us, it may take multiple attempts before we are fully satisfied with the outcomes we experience, whatever the endeavor.

Often, we refer to our unsuccessful attempts as mistakes, but in the minds of many people, educators included, the word mistake is often mistaken for a form of failure, if you will forgive the pun. We would be better off to use the term “disappointing outcomes.” Whatever we choose to call them, however, what they represent are “learning opportunities.”

 Mistakes/disappointing outcomes do not rise to the level of failure unless we give up and stop trying; until we settle for less than a full understanding of something, or less than subject mastery.  In our classrooms, students do not choose to stop trying or settle for less than their best and, it is not their teachers who make that choice for them. The decision to abandon one lesson and begin another before students are ready to move on, is what the current education process requires of teachers. Giving up is what the education process has been teaching  many children to do from their first day of school. We have not been prompted to think about it that way.

Teachers are unknowing facilitators in this process because it is what the education process demands of them. Every time teachers must record  a C, D, or F in their gradebooks, that grade becomes a specific, documented example of a student who has been required, by the education process,  to give up and stop  trying before they have gained comprehension;  before attaining subject mastery. Once that window closes on a given lesson, rarely do kids get another chance.  

This is only half of what we must come to understand as one of the most dysfunctional components of the education process on which teachers and students must rely. The other half of the dysfunction has an equally devastating impact on our most vulnerable students.

What we learn from our successes is no less important than what we learn from our unsuccessful outcomes. Every time teachers are required to move students on, ready or not, the education process deprives a child of an opportunity to experience success.  If there is no success there can be no opportunity to celebrate success, to relish in it, take pride in it. These students are deprived of  essential  building blocks of confidence and self- esteem; and  it happens to millions of children, hundreds of times, every school year.

Each of our experiences whether good or bad, positive or negative, successful or unsuccessful, acceptable or unacceptable, expected or disappointing, satisfactory or unsatisfactory are learning opportunities.  We learn from experience, not just mistakes, each  one of us, both learners and teachers. Think about what this means to our students and it becomes apparent why this discussion is so important.

Success in learning leads to proficiency. We become proficient when we have acquired the ability to utilize what we have learned in real life situations, whether they be subsequent lessons, state-competency examinations, college-entry applications and exams;  job applications, qualification for military enlistment; and, solving problems on the job and in our everyday lives. We need to think of each lesson  we ask our students to learn as an opportunity for them to acquire the pre-requisite knowledge and skills they will need to achieve success on future endeavors, whatever the venue or level.

Once we grasp the magnitude of the devastation wreaked by the existing  education process we have been utilizing in our schools for generations, we must feel compelled to change the way we think about what we do and why. How can we rely on an education process that deprives millions of children of opportunities to acquire the prerequisite knowledge and skills they will need for the rest of their lives?

Our existing education process is dysfunctional to the point of obsolescence. Is it any wonder there are so many American men and women who seem unable to make informed decisions about the cogent issues of this 21st Century, and who rely on the leadership of demagogs and conspiracy theorists to tell them what is true and what is not?

The good news, as overwhelming as this may seem, is that a solution is relatively easy to implement. Reimagining the education process is what The Hawkins Model© has been designed to do. One of the things it requires is that we utilize time as an independent variable in the education equation, rather than a constant or fixed asset.  You are invited to check it out at www.melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/

Sometimes the answer is right in front of us!

Sometimes the answer to our most important questions can be found right in front of us. Often, we are so distracted by what we are asked to do and why, the simple truth is obscured. This is particularly true with respect to the American education process and the way we interpret and respond to the results of the high-stakes testing to which both students and teachers are subjected.

Let us apply some simple logic and utilize it to ask the question:

“What do the data from standardized tests tell us?”

As a point of clarification, let us confirm we are referring to data from the high-stakes testing we administer to our students, each Spring. Further, let us utilize one of our least favorite yet one of the most common forms of assessment, the multiple-choice question. Let us phrase the question:

Select the answer that best describes what we learn, each year, from the standardized tests administered in the schools of our state?

a) Some schools are failures and should be closed or replaced by charter schools and other alternatives;

b) Many classroom teachers are incompetent and overpaid and should be replaced by technology or by paraprofessionals;

c) Many students in the U.S. are incapable of learning, particularly poor and minority students;

d) The education process, with which teachers are expected to do their important work, is ineffective in meeting the needs of a diverse population of American students?

Understand, our answer to this question drives education policy decisions at the local, state, and federal level.

If we choose answers “a”, “b”, or “c”, policy makers will continue to pursue a combination of the policies of the past and their preferred education reform initiatives, the most popular of which is  “school choice.”

If we choose, “d”, something different must happen. We will need to step back and challenge our assumptions about what we do and why.

What we will discover, despite the best efforts of our teachers, is the existing education process is neither organized, structured, tasked, nor resourced to give students the quality relationships they need to be successful; the amount of time they need to learn each lesson so they can apply that knowledge to future lessons and other real-life situations; and, the opportunity to experience and celebrate their success. Every student must learn success is a process that must be mastered, just like any other skill set.

The reader is invited to examine an education model that has been reimagined to make these essential functions the focus of everything teachers do for their students. What most people will be surprised to discover is the relative ease with which such changes can be incorporated. Please review The Hawkins Model© at my website, melhawkinsandassociates.com.

A message to my friends on Twitter and LinkedIn and followers of my blog, “Education, Hope and the American Dream,” about a non Covid health issue I’ve been dealing with.

It is my hope that a few of you, at least, have wondered why I have been so silent for so long, with both Tweets and blog posts. There have been no blog posts at all from late July to late October and only a few from the first of April, a couple of which were recycled.

I want to share a little about the “non-Covid-related” health condition I experienced that began early in 2020 and is only beginning to resolve. Because it is a health condition I had never heard of, and one that many people in my age range may be at risk for, I want to tell you about it.

The condition or syndrome is Tardive Dyskinesia, “TD” for short. It is caused by long-term use of medications, individually or in combination, for psychiatric, neurological, and gastrointestinal ailments. For some time, I had been taking medication for ailments in two of those three conditions.

My symptoms included cognitive problems such as memory loss, inability to focus, mood fluctuations balance, as well as some repeating involuntary movements. These symptoms came on so gradually the condition was not diagnosed for nine or ten months. I can tell you it was a frightening time for me and my family. We were fearful it was the onset of some form of dementia. It was diagnosed this past December and, after changing some of my medications, symptoms have begun to abate. A couple of the symptoms persist and I have been advised it may take a few months or more before I feel fully normal, again.

To give you a couple of examples, my short-term memory was awful and not just pulling an occasional word out of my memory banks, something that many people of my age group are prone to experience. So, so often, I would struggle to come up with a word and once I was able to recall it, I might be  unable to spell it.

Writing became problematic as I would sit down to type a sentence and forget what I wanted to say before I finished typing it. Often, when I was able to produce a paragraph or more, I would later discover that what I had written made no sense at all. Often, I would find words missing that were necessary for  a sentence. Occasionally what I had written would be non-sensical.

In addition, at its worst point, I would lose my balance for no obvious reason, was unable to perform simple manual tasks such as deal from a deck of playing cards or peel potatoes, and would experience repeating involuntary movements.

Most all of us know how horrible dementia can be for a family and being faced with the prospect this could be my future was frightening.

So. any of you in your late sixties, or beyond (I am 75), who take medications individually or in combinations for any psychiatric (e.g. depression), neurological, or even gastrointestinal conditions (GERD), be alert to the development of the kind of symptoms I have described and talk to your physician, immediately, if any should surface.

Some of you are aware of the book I have been writing to introduce my education model. I had hoped to complete it last Spring. Needless to say, little progress has been made in almost a year.  I am beginning to get back to work on the book, slowly, and I want to devote most of my available writing time to that purpose. Since I also want to maintain a presence on Twitter, and other social media, I will be recycling a few articles from my blog as far back as 2013; a few on topics that remain cogent.

I hope you have fared well in the Pandemic and wish all of you the best.

Mel Hawkins @melhawk46

Putting Covid 19 in Perspective Against the Trauma of World War II

Most Americans living today, beginning with baby boomers like me, have no way of appreciating how traumatic World War II must have been for the American people.

Possibly this Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 has given us a taste of how it must have felt to have the entire world at war.

Front-line military personnel, like frontline healthcare workers and first responders, had to deal with the trauma and tragedy every single day. While it is true one cannot understand the trauma of combat unless he or she has been immersed in the violence, death, fear, and horror of it; it is equally true people must be surrounded, daily, by the fear, suffering, and death while caring for coronavirus patients to fully comprehend the trauma. 

During the whole of WW II, when 9 percent of the U.S. population served in the Armed Forces, almost everyone knew of someone on the front lines, or of their families. It is likely the same as true for over one million casualties.

The number of people in present day who must risk exposure to the virus extends well-beyond frontline healthcare workers and first responders, although those men and women are at the greatest risk: God bless them. Essential workers who must come into contact or interact with the public are also putting themselves at risk, just by helping the rest of us do all the things we believe we need to do, whether or not the need is real. Their public includes people wearing masks and taking precautions as well as those who have declined to take precautions. Essential workers have no way of knowing who might be contagious and who is safe, yet we expect them to serve us with a smile behind their masks.

There are few events in history for which the impact on citizens was as profound as WWII or the Covid-19 Pandemic.

As the number of deaths and infections during this Pandemic have increased, even those of us who cling to the notion Covid-19 is a hoax, are more likely, each day, to hear of someone whom they know or know about, who has suffered from the disease or who works amid the suffering as part of their daily life.

One of the biggest differences between the WWII war and the pandemic is that almost all Americans of the 1940s pitched in to support the war effort in any way they could. The war effort was a powerfully, unifying force.

Like Americans of the 1940s, we have been asked to make sacrifices and endure unprecedented hardships, and we have, also, been asked to rally around the disease-prevention effort. For reasons that are difficult to fathom, the pandemic has proven to be a divisive phenomenon rather than the unifying force created by WWII.   Some people have been told the virus is a hoax and that being told to wear masks and taking other precautions is an infringement of their rights as Americans.

During this pandemic, everyone of us faces a direct risk of infection, everywhere we go, and from everyone with whom we come into contact. The virus is an invisible enemy. Lack of awareness or heads in the sand do nothing to mitigate that risk and can only elevate it.

Millions of Americans refuse to rally around the flag and accept the minimal responsibilities asked of them. Wearing masks, social distancing, and sheltering in place, are simple—if not easy—things for us to do that have been proven to protect ourselves and others. By doing one’s duty, people who wear masks, keep their distance, and stay home are saving lives and flattening the curve.

Possibly, our elected leaders, would have gotten a better response had they chosen to ask people to step up rather than demand compliance.  It would be nice to think, whatever their politics, the American people care enough about their nation and their fellow citizens to do the right thing and serve the common good. Why people are willing to politicize such things is unfathomable.

The one thing that seems to stand out, during these trying times, is that large numbers of Americans have lost faith in their government.  Many seem not to understand that, while imperfect, both the Constitution of the United States and the government it established, exist to serve and protect the people.

We are now a society of 330 million people, one of the most diverse populations on the planet. Somehow, our government must be able to meet the needs of everyone, not just a lucky few.  This is no easy thing and the less unified we are the more difficult it becomes.

Look at the world and think about how many nations exist where citizens endure great suffering and injustice.  The only thing that will prevent the U.S.A. from devolving into such a place is our commitment to our principles and to one another. Determining our mutual best-interests is what free elections are all about.  The challenge is that the more diverse we become the more difficult the job of government becomes and the more tolerant Americans must be.   

Does this pandemic rise to the stature of World War II? Judge for yourself.

Here are some facts to compare the impact on life in America as a result of WWII and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Pandemic is like World War II in the sense that there was no place one could go to get away from the consequences of all that was taking place around them. Consider:

  • The pandemic has been with us for about 10 months. For Americans, the duration of World War II was about 3.7 years, or 44 months.
  • In its 10 months, 16.1 million Americans have contracted the virus out of a total population of 330 million; and, it is far from over. This represents 4.9 percent of the US population. The total number of casualties from WWII was 1,070,000, which represents less than one percent of the population in the 1940s.
  • The number of deaths in WWII, numbered approximately 400,000, or 0.3 percent of the population of 131 million people. So far more than 316,000 or 0.9 percent of the population have died from the Covid-19 Pandemic and more die every day.
  • Like the hundreds of thousands of service men and women in WW II, hundreds of thousands of front-line healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers are called upon to go to war for us, putting their lives on the line every day.  
  • During the 44 months of World War II the average number of casualties per day was 811, which included 303 fatalities.
  • During the ten months of the pandemic, so far, the average number of new infections per day is approximately 53,000, and there have been an average of 1040 deaths per day.

There are probably conspiracy theorists who believe World War II was a hoax, but there are historical records from innumerable sources to verify both the data and the reality of the war.

For the Americans who believe the Pandemic is a hoax, these infections and deaths are happening in real time. If you do not already know someone who contracted Covid-19, or died, it is likely you will soon.  If you want proof, you could visit a hospital near you and count the number of patients arriving at the hospital and the number of coffins that are carried out.

If the hospital staff did not care about your safety, you would be able to visit their intensive-care units where you could see the suffering of patients, first-hand, as well as the number healthcare workers fighting through exhaustion to save as many lives as they can.

One can only wonder what has happened in the seventy-five years since the end of World War II, that has altered the character of a nation and its people.

We must contemplate what we can do to restore the shared commitment to democracy that was once so assured and vibrant. The one thing of which we can be certain is that turning back the clock is never the answer. Time only marches forward and we either adapt or fall behind. Neither can we choose to exclude segments of the population from the rights and privileges of citizenship. History teaches us such  exclusions do not turn out well.

How do we get from here to where we need to be? We cannot legislate changes in the hearts of human beings. What we can and must do is focus on education. It is a recipe for disaster to have millions of people whose knowledge of the world, its history, its science, and their government is so limited they depend on others to tell them what to believe and what is true.

For as long as any of us can remember

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

https://bit.ly/2ZqGWxR

A question for teachers and, also, an opportunity

Notwithstanding the innovations, methodologies, resources, technologies, or other initiatives you have endured over the last 5, 10, or 20 years, has anything of significance really changed in your classrooms with respect to student achievement?

If you teach in what we refer to as one of our nation’s “under-performing” schools, do your students continue to struggle no matter how much of yourself you give or how diligently you strive. There is no reason to think this will change, anytime soon.

It is not your fault and do not believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

Do not give up on your students, your school, or public education. Your students, your schools and your communities need you more than ever. Whatever happens, do not give up on yourselves.

When you return to school things will be different but you will still be unable to give every student the time and attention they need; you will still be asked to try new approaches and methodologies and train for new software applications that will be frustrating, will complicate your professional lives, while engendering few  meaningful outcomes.

You must, still, brace yourselves for another round of standardized tests on which the same students will do just as poorly as they did the years before, and you will still be blamed for their disappointing outcomes.

You will still be denied the pay raises and the respect you know you deserve and this demoralizing pattern will repeat itself year after year, leaving you to fantasize about what it will be like when you can retire.

Think about your return to school. Has there ever been a more opportune time to do something new and different? Not a little different but “life-changing” different?

Whether it is teachers who will drive the changes that are coming or will be driven by them, remains to be see. Have no doubt, however, significant changes are coming whether we like it or not.

The danger for public school educators is that you will squander this opportunity by devoting your time, resources, and energy to get back to what we have always done. If this is the choice you make, you can be sure someone else will seize the opportunity and teachers will be fortunate to be taken along for the ride.

Teachers need to answer a question, for themselves, if for no one else. Do you want to return to the same classrooms and with the same constraints and limitations? Or, do you want something better?

We have all witnessed new ideas, products, or services that have captured the imagination of the American consumer. This is how markets are transformed, by the relentless advocacy of people who are excited by an idea and are determined to share it.

With respect to education, there is an idea afloat that is said to have the potential to transform education in America. Understand, if we transform education, we will transform America because people are who they were educated to be.

This new idea is an education model that exists to serve its teachers and students rather than one in which educators and their students exist to serve the model. It is an education model that is waiting for the relentless advocacy of teachers who want to believe there must be a better way to educate our children.

Why not take an hour or less of your time to examine this new way to educate our children; a new education model designed to support you and your students in doing the things your students need from you and that you need for your soul and sanity. You have little to lose and almost everything to gain.

The Hawkins Model©