Educational reform…one at a time?
Kids who are motivated to learn…if you could poll every teacher everywhere, and ask all of them to share their fondest dream about their chosen profession, it might be just that. Kids who want to be there, kids who don’t need to be threatened or catechized or shamed or lectured …or bribed…into going through formalized motions of learning. With a group of students like that a good teacher can overcome just about any other obstacle you can think of.
What kind of program can we develop, mandate, fund and implement to make a dream like that become reality? Who will merit our trust, or accept the responsibility, to do it? Should we concentrate our efforts on the public schools, or private institutions, or charter schools, or maybe invent a new way to categorize them all and create some sort of cosmic Lesson Plan Book to solve the problem? Who gets to decide?
I would not want to be chosen to attempt any such crusade, no matter how well intentioned. I have spent most of my life at one extreme end of the continuum of kids who share the experience of SCHOOL I was too bright to fit in, too innocent to realize it, and helpless to do anything about it anyway. I’m prejudiced, and I submit that all of you who are reading this are, too, each in a unique way, good, bad, or indifferent. There is no way we could ever agree on anything of substance that would actually reform education, much less put it into practice. That kind of solution is the stuff of fairy tales.
But…what if we could stop pouring all that energy into discovering a supreme plan to reform education that might work and instead, just agree to agree that education matters?
What if one beaten down, abused welfare mother honestly wanted to get her kids to accept the idea that school matters and that doing your best to succeed there promises the shortest path to a better life? What if her kids really believed that?What would that accomplish? A whole lot, in fact. What if everybody truly believed that? What if we could somehow get every disadvantaged, disenfranchised, discouraged parent out there to agree…and to share that belief with their children?
That’s probably another fairy tale…but…what if you could only get to one such person and persuade by argument or example that encouraging a child to value education is a good thing? That has been shown to work. I have done it, and so can you if you want to. What would happen if all of us did it just once? Think about that for a while.