How Do We Stop the Runaway Train of Misguided Educational Reforms?

The educational reform initiatives that threaten to destroy public education in America are like a runaway train and cannot be stopped by the complaints of teachers, individually or collectively. Complaints are the useless weapons of the weak and the unimaginative. What teachers must believe is that, by banding together, they have the power to alter this untenable reality in education, but only if they open their hearts and minds to a new way of thinking about the educational process in which they have been immersed for so long.

The principles of positive leadership suggest that, rather than complain, powerful leaders offer constructive alternatives. In the case of education, that alternative cannot be a return to the status quo. We must acknowledge that the one and only thing about which corporate and government reformers have been correct is that the existing educational process is not meeting the needs of Twenty-first Century American children.

These reformers are wrong about everything else. They are wrong that teachers are to blame and that if we hold them accountable on the basis of student performance on annual competency examinations it will magically alter the outcomes. Such a strategy will not produce the outcomes we seek because teachers control only a small portion of the forces that are leading so many American children down the precipitous path to failure.

The reformers are wrong to think that privatization, financial incentives, charter schools, and removing our schools from the control of the communities they exist to serve will reverse the hopelessness and the powerlessness of a growing percentage of Americans who have lost faith in the American Dream.

These reformers are wrong to think that entrepreneurial principles and state-of-the-art technology can mitigate the value of trained and committed professionals in our classrooms. These reformers are wrong because they are pushing the wrong business principles; they are wrong because they have forgotten that, no matter how sophisticated it might be, technology will never be more than a powerful tool in the hands of people who know how to effectively and productively utilize it; and, they are wrong because they are blind to the reality that American public school teachers are victims of the same educational process that victimizes their students.

What educators must recognize is that the power that drives these reformers is a function of the public’s loss of faith in professional educators, in American public schools, and in an educational process that has left millions of American men and women bitter, resentful, and disillusioned.

It is not too late for American educators to re-establish themselves as our nation’s leaders of choice as we work to reinvent the American educational process. Time has become a commodity in short supply, however. We dare not waste another day, week, or month before we recognize the challenge before us come together to face it. If we wait a year we might as well throw in the towel because our envelope of opportunity will have re-sealed itself.

In this eleventh hour we need a comprehensive blue print for reinventing the American educational process and I offer my book, Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-first Century America (REHAD) as a starting point.

The next couple of posts will be devoted to re-presenting the action strategies offered in the book (REHAD) into a strategic action plan that requires only a definitive decision to act. That decision to act is the responsibility of the professional men and women who preside over teacher associations and unions; over associations for principals and administrators; over the boards of entities established to promote education in the U.S., and over school districts and corporations, whether public or private.

As an author, I have no illusions that my strategic action plan, as comprehensive as it may be, will be the final iteration of a new vision for education in the U.S. but it is a place to start. What must follow is an analysis on the part of a diverse population of professional educators working diligently for ways to improve and enhance this initial blueprint.

Professional educators must harbor no illusions that they can pare this vision back until it is no more than the current reality, in disguise. Any such pretense will be quickly recognized and rejected and there will be no second chances.

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