Educational reform initiatives that have evolved since President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” Legislation have been gaining momentum and seem to be driven by the belief that public education in the U.S. is in a state of unprecedented crisis. These reformers insist that this crisis results, primarily, from of bad teachers and bad schools, all under the administrative control of local school districts that are poorly managed and unable to respond to the growing challenges for public education in Twenty-first Century America. Further, that even in school districts blessed with capable leadership, the efforts of these professionals are thwarted by teacher unions that make it difficult to respond to the performance issues of classroom teachers.
We believe that these reformers are wrong about everything except the existence of a crisis in public education, but it is a crisis of which these reformers seem to understand neither its nature nor its genesis. But still, they wield a big stick and the impact of the strategies and reforms initiated by these powerful leaders continue to reverberate throughout public-school classrooms, corridors, faculty lounges, and district board rooms; all driven by the mystifying assumption that if only we would run our schools as effectively as we run our businesses, quality education would prevail and expectations, everywhere, would rise.
What the actions of these reformers demonstrate, at least to this observer, is a minimal level of understanding of the forces that contribute to academic success and failure and a blatant lack of insight into the consequences of their actions.
On the other side of the conflict we have professional educators and administrators, men and women who have devoted their lifetimes to public education, who have responded to the legions of reformers by choosing to defend the honor of public education in America. Even the most renown and articulate spokespersons for professional educators have chosen to respond by defending the record of education in America, citing the progress that has been made over the last couple of decades. In this they are wrong, as the evidence will demonstrate.
These ardent advocates insist that the quality of education in America is better than it has ever been and that our students are learning more than they have ever learned. They argue that reformers grossly undervalue the critical role that poverty and racial segregation play in driving down the academic performance of America’s underprivileged children.
The warning that is shouted out by these advocates, is that the actions of the reformers threaten to destroy the very systems of education they have vowed to transform. The strategy of choice of the advocates of education in the U.S. is to complain loudly, voicing their predictions of the havoc being wreaked on our nation’s most vulnerable students and their schools.
Analysis and Recommendations
The reform initiatives of the government and corporate reformers of education are a runaway train that does, indeed, threaten to destroy our system of public education and our schools in communities all over the nation, to the great disadvantage of American children.
The reformers are correct, however, that public education in the U.S. is in a state of crisis that has ominous implications for the future of our nation.
It is the conclusion of this observer that the combined impact of this unprecedented crisis in public education in America and the misguided actions of the self-ordained reformers of education will be catastrophic for our children and for the American way of life, the future of which will soon rest upon the shoulders of these same children. We also suggest that the progression of this catastrophe is aided and abetted by the intransigence of our professional educators.
It is this author’s belief that our only hope for viable future for the United States of America, the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the world, is for the professional educators throughout these United States to stop complaining and take action. Complaints are the useless weapons of the weak and the unimaginative. The principles of positive leadership suggest that, rather than complain, powerful leaders offer constructive alternatives.
It is imperative that professional educators unite behind an alternate plan of action designed to fix the real problems with public education and work relentlessly to sell it to the American people.
Our next post will be focused on three objectives;
1) We will examine evidence proving that the crisis in education is real;
2) We will demonstrate how the professional educators working in our public schools are as much victims of a dysfunctional system as are the children whom they teach; and,
3) We will identify the specific components of our systems of public education, and the educational process that works within the system, that compel us to action.
In subsequent posts we will begin, item by item, to outline the specific action strategies that, if implemented and properly executed, will transform public education in the U.S. These action strategies were first introduced in my book, Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America. As is always the case in a dynamic environment, I have learned much since the book was published a year ago and the strategic action plan we will be presenting will benefit from the wisdom and knowledge that has been gained.
That process of learning and adapting is relentless and self-perpetuating and the plan will continue to evolve as our teachers and principals come on board and begin adding their own wisdom and knowledge to the equation. Strategic action plans are very much like organizations and human systems in that they are living, breathing entities that evolve, incessantly.