As we shift our focus to the community we must call on our political leaders for leadership, resell the American dream, and to educate all Americans on the paramount role of parents in improving the motivation to learn.
It would be so easy to stop at this point, thinking that our job is finished but, in reality, it has just begun. Education is simply a tool to help us prepare each new generation for the challenges our nation will face in an ever-more competitive world marketplace. It is a marketplace in which it will be impossible for us to compete, effectively, if we do not have the full participation of our entire citizenry. We simply must bring them on board.
As challenging and overwhelming as this may seem it is nothing more than an enormous marketing and advertising campaign to repackage and resell the American Dream. For all of the progress other economies have made with respect to their ability to compete with the U.S. we are still the unparalleled leader in marketing and advertising and we need to capitalize on this strength to re-engage every American to join their fellow citizens in rising to the challenges facing our nation. It is a perfect opportunity for African-Americans and other minorities to assume their rightful place as full partners in the American enterprise and in American society. We simply need to sell them on the idea that the time and the opportunities are prime.
The beauty of education is that nothing we do as a nation reaches into as many homes and as many families as our systems of education and it provides the perfect opportunity to not only transform public education but also to transform American society. It is an initiative in which the leaders of our school districts throughout the nation will be the point persons carrying the message of our political leadership. It is an initiative where our school superintendents and principals will be supported by leaders from government, professional athletics, entertainment, and the full spectrum of businesses. It is an initiative in which every single American man and woman will have a meaningful role to play.
What follows is the blueprint for action in the form of our final fourteen (14) action items.
Action Item #20 – Our Presidents, present and future, must initiate and sustain a movement to re-sanctify the American dream, calling on leaders at every level of governments and business, and men and women in every community to believe in the American dream with their words and deeds and to ask American parents to accept responsibility for the education of their children. Further, that every American mother and father work hand-in-hand with their children’s teachers as full partners in the educational process. This is the categorical imperative of our time.
Action Item #21 – Leaders at every level are challenged to ask parents everywhere, irrespective of race or economic circumstances: “Is your son or daughter a future President of the United States? Is he or she a future CEO, physician, attorney, teacher, engineer, school superintendent, or other professional?” And then, those parents must be challenged to help their children achieve the best success of which they are capable.
Action Item #22 – Educators accept that the over-riding objective must be to improve the motivation of students and that this requires the active partnership of the parents of those children. Toward this end, school boards need to re-establish expectations for their superintendents and principals to work toward this objective and determine how performance against those expectations will be evaluated.
Action Item #23 – School Corporations must first target those segments of their community that are the lowest performing but no segment is to be overlooked.
Action Item #24 – Educators must hit the streets using all available means to draw parents into their children’s schools and to engage those parents in the educational process. They must also work to enlist the assistance of community leaders toward that end and must hold themselves and their staffs accountable for the outcomes.
Action Item #25 – Educational leaders must engage the creative energies of the entire community, including charitable foundations, for the purpose of developing and evaluating programs to help pull parents in as partners and to help them learn how to be effective in supporting the academic efforts of their children.
In order to accomplish these objectives our school corporations must re-establish the expectations and priorities of principals and administrators.
Action Item #26 – Superintendents must remove the administrative burdens from the shoulders of their principals, freeing them to devote their time and energy to their primary objective, even if it means employing more administrative support. Districts must create the expectations that principals and administrators spend 75 percent of their time in direct contact with parents, students, teachers, and staff.
Action Item #27 – School Corporations must place a premium on positive leadership: Relying on positive leadership skills as the criteria for selection of principals and administrators and making real investments in ongoing leadership development for those principals and administrators.
Finally, we must identify the communities with the greatest needs and we must use every tool and resource at our disposal to engage those communities and their leaders and to enlist their commitment to make education of our children the over-riding priority of every citizen. We must then replicate that process in each and every community in the nation.
Action Item #28 – We need to call upon our presidents, present and future, to challenge celebrities from every venue, large and small, to make a commitment to public education by reaching out to their fan bases, asking them to accept responsibility for the education of their children. This challenge must be extended to every adult American, asking them to do whatever is within their power in order to make a difference.
Action Item #29 – Initiate a cultural transformation using the African-America community as a model, on both a national and local front, in which black Americans, as a community:
- Accept responsibility for their futures with no reliance on “The Man” to solve their problems for them;
- Stop blaming the white people for the plight of blacks, whatever one’s opinion about the culpability of white society, simply because blaming others is a debilitating strategy;
- Place a premium on education;
- Raise expectations of black children in the classroom and relentlessly encourage our children to exceed those expectations;
- Work as partners with our local school systems, both public and private, to support the teachers of our children.
Action Item #30 – Local superintendents should encourage head start and other preschool programs in their school districts to redouble their efforts to pull parents into the process so that our children can continue at home the important work they do at their school.
Action Item #31 – Superintendents of each district should establish a community advisory organization with representation from key members of each high school’s community: parents, churches, social and community organizations, neighborhood associations, and businesses. As noted earlier, these specific examples are specifically targeted at the African-American community because this is where the most glaring deficiencies can be found but they can easily be modified and local advisory organizations will tailor their activities to the unique requirements of their community. Examples of activities for which this organization will be responsible include:
- Reaching out to the community to solicit broad-based participation and support of the community;
- Asking all leaders of the African-American community to carry President Obama’s challenge into the homes of their community and to engage the community in the process of creating a new culture; one that challenges black children to assume their rightful place as players in the business and professional playing fields much as they have done in the world of professional athletics and entertainment;
- Brainstorming with people from across the spectrum of the community for innovative programs that will create the support systems necessary to facilitate this objective;
- Recruiting volunteers from among the ranks of professionals, business executives, craftsmen, tradesmen, athletes, and artists to reach out into the communities with which they have a connection and to connect with parents and students;
- Invite each school’s population of parents to a free lunch with their children, once per month;
- Using the same creative marketing techniques we use in promoting fundraising ventures, we can invite parents to workshops in the evenings or on Saturdays, to teach them how to help their children with homework;
- We can solicit parents to volunteer at their son or daughter’s school and, where necessary, we can enlist some of them to provide babysitting for those who have young children still at home;
- We can ask churches, neighborhood library branches, Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, scout troops, and many other community programs to provide organized study, reading, and writing groups and to recruit tutors from among their ranks;
- We can find more creative ways to develop mentoring programs to bring young people into direct contact with men and women who demonstrate each and every day of their lives that success and achievement are within our power; and,
- · We can ask families and neighbors of parents with school age children to support these parents in this process in every conceivable way.
Action Item #32 – Successful men and women of each community should be challenged to reach back to their communities: to support the efforts of educators to pull parents in as partners in the educational process and/or to mentor to a child in need until there are not enough children to go around.
Action Item #33 – Urge all Americans to give support and encouragement to the children in their lives: grandchildren, nieces and nephews, our children’s friends, kids from our neighborhood, even our own children. Let them know how important it is that they do their best and that we are rooting for them.
Fixing public education must be the categorical imperative of our time and the process will require the participation of the entire community. It is essential that parents be full partners in the educational process because these are the men and women who have the best chance of bringing a child to their first day of school, motivated to learn even in the face of the obstacles with which they will surely be confronted. If the child has wandered off the path, teachers and parents working together offer the best hope that these children can be redirected.
Improving the motivation to learn on the part of students and increasing their level of preparedness when they arrive for their first day of school must be the ultimate objective of every single thing we do and we must evaluate the efficacy of every program and investment on the basis of how well it services this purpose. We cannot afford to waste a single moment or dollar on things that do
We must also step back as educators, at all levels, to view our system of public education as an integral whole. We must apply a systems-thinking approach that will allow educators and policymakers to challenge their fundamental assumptions about public education; to understand how what we do contributes to the problem; and, ultimately, to re-engineer the system to do what we need it to do to optimize the power of a child’s motivation to learn. It must be a system focused on success that will help each child progress along their unique path at the best speed of which he or she is capable.
The entire educational community must reach out also to the current and future Presidents of the United States, urging them to fire the starter’s gun and lay down the challenge to every mother and father to accept responsibility for the education of their children and for partnering with their teachers and principals.
These things must be accomplished with an unprecedented urgency because the very future of our way of life is in jeopardy. If we fail to seize up this opportunity then the outcomes we will experience in the coming years will be decidedly unpleasant and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.