We’re not failing…

“Schools are failing!”

“Kids are being short-changed!”

“Something must be done!”

“Accountability for teachers! Charter schools! Vouchers!”

You’ve heard it all before, a million times. Public schools are simply not doing what it is they are supposed to do. Change needs to happen. Now. Yesterday.

I had this thought today: No, schools are not failing.

Failure would mean that schools are not doing what they were designed to do, were not accomplishing the goals that had been set for them. But, we are doing that.

The problem is, schools are doing what they were designed to do a century ago- producing workers for an agricultural/industrial economy, one with minimal consumer technology, one with global communications measured in days or weeks rather than seconds, one with racial segregation as a matter of law, one with gender roles defined by generations of habit rather than individual ability. One that, in short, isn’t this world.

And try as they might, schools have been unable to adapt to the new world effectively. Well, unable to do so effectively as measured by standardized test scores and comparisons to other nations’ standardized test scores. Why?

Because we, as a nation, can’t agree on what we want schools to do. Sure, we all say, “Get them ready for the jobs of tomorrow!” What jobs are those, exactly? “Prepare them for the technology they’ll use in the future!” Do you know what technology that is? Because, if you do, I’d like to know so I can invest in the right companies today. Provide them with self esteem and a sense of responsibility! Give them basic skills! Offer after school care, dental, vision, and hearing screening! Teach them reproductive responsibility! Get them ready for college! Differentiate for their individual learning styles! And above all, raise those test scores!

Oh, and do it on the cheap, because we don’t want to pay for it.

The only solution, as I see it, is to close all schools down for 3-6 months, reconfigure classrooms, re-equip them, and give teachers, administrators, counselors, school psychologists, instructional assistants, even custodians and food service workers intensive training. But- and this is even more far-fetched than closing every school in the country for 3 months- we need a common, universal vision for what our schools ought to do. We need to be working towards the same goal, one for this century. We shouldn’t be preparing students to work in factories, because those are all moving overseas.

I don’t know what that vision is; there are far smarter, more experienced, more important folks than me who bear that responsibility. But I’m certain that we won’t every really figure this out unless we’re willing to make some commitments to change and some hard choices.


1 comment so far

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jim Connolly, seani. seani said: Nice post by @jimconn http://bit.ly/bMcEYB "we're not failing" glad you got the time to post today 🙂 […]

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