Posted tagged ‘20/20’

More School=Dumber?

October 19, 2007

I just finished listening to a 20/20 episode titled “Stupid in America” on the current state of schooling in America. Although I was not surprised by much of what I heard, one statement floored me… that the longer kids stay in school, the ‘dumber’ they become when compared to other countries and their students’ school performance. Wow!

I must admit, I take John Stossel’s terminology “most” with a grain of salt, as he describes some of the schools that exemplify poor quality. Are there bad teachers? Sure. Are their bad schools? Yes. Are there bored.jpgbad administrators? Of course. Bad policies? Many. But, I have had the blessing of being part of so many wonderful schools with caring teachers, administrators, parents, para-professionals… I think what IS true is that there is a definite divide in American schools – one directly linked to socio-economic status. Top performing schools are often so because of the entire social umbrella (village) surrounding those schools, not only because of great teachers alone. Actually, sometimes it can be in spite of lesser teacher quality.

One Belgian school administrator is quoted as saying, “You have to be innovative all the time and look for new means of thinking…” because if they don’t succeed, they are run out of business (school choice is big there)- and that American schools continue to leave children behind on a daily basis in spite of NCLB. She was pretty much mocking that policy. What strikes me as most important here is the initiative to constantly innovate. So many schools and teachers are stuck in 19th century models of schooling that are just not working. Does that mean just give everyone laptops and high-speed wireless? Not at all. There is nothing worse than an ineffective teacher with the addition of technology in his or her hands. But, the potential of bringing about new life and excellence into into our current practices by discussing and examining the benefits of integrating new tools and opportunities is great! It is when we stop trying that things go sour.

Certainly, these issues are complex. I don’t want to trivialize or oversimplify some of the issues facing teachers, administrators, and partents on a daily basis. Teaching in some districts can like going into a war zone. But, teachers need to be well-trained (a continual process) to meet the needs of the audience that they will be trying to teach/reach, not the audience that they remember as part of their own K-12 experience. Administrators need to embrace innovation and out-of-box thinking. Nothing less than excellence should be tolerated. The positive should be put on a pedestal. The negative squelched. Do teachers’ unions hold too much power as the video clearly suggests? Perhaps. Should the business of school run more competitively to ensure high quality schools succeed while poor quality schools shut down? Maybe. Should all education stakeholders embrace every moment and pledge to touch as many children as possible and skillfully engage them in powerful, meaningful learning?

No doubt.

You can comment on the video if you have a Viddler account by viewing the episode here.

speaker_20.gifListen to this entry as an mp3 file.

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