Wednesday, May 16, 2012

One Viewpoint

I have kept my promise to myself. I promised myself that I would not get involved in the misinformation and juvenile politics of this school budget season. No attacking or defending of people or policies. No opinions offered unless asked. For some, I wish they had asked, for I could have helped guide them to a better path, but they didn’t, and so, I didn’t.

Now that the dust has cleared, the real issue was one brought up during the budget season, but tabled in view of the politics at hand. That issue was the evolving state of education itself.
Two years ago, I submitted an idea to a Scholastic contest, for changing the way kids are taught. Flip the Model was the idea, where a given lesson was learned at home via video, and the resulting homework was done in class, providing more comprehensive attention from a child’s teacher.

I alerted the local school administration to this idea. It didn’t win the contest. It got no traction at the district level. This year, upon attending a seminar regarding the Khan Academy, an online effort to put high school and college-level lessons on video, our BOE mentioned it as a possible direction for education.

As long as someone is noticing, great!

The point of all of that is simply this: the way we educate our kids must change. We don’t need to churn out obedient factory workers anymore, but we’re still teaching kids in the 19th century way… rows of desks, sit up straight, bend to authority, and memorize, memorize, memorize a plethora of data that they will never use again. Much of it, especially in history and civics, isn’t even true.

In order for America to regain its status as the Dream Factory for the world, in order for us to allow our children to achieve the potential they deserve, we must begin the change in two ways. One: our current system doesn’t work and is unacceptable. The enemy of change here is the state education process, NOT the locals who are trapped in a failed system, and not the federal-level educators who are trying to implement a core curriculum to prevent some states from rolling our education system back to the 18th century. We must, as parents, continue to poke and prod the system, (while keeping our dignity whole and our egos in check, please). We must continue to illustrate the benefits of individualized education models and shun the one-size-fits-all machine that leaves so many of our kids behind.

The second way is to realize an uncomfortable truth. Our schools cannot, by their very design, handle this new model completely. They can do some of it, but there just isn’t room, funds or the knowledge base to teach an entire school system of kids individually. We, as parents must take the lead role. If you’re smart enough to do that, then it means doubling down your efforts and making sure your kids are challenged. If you’re not, admit it to yourself and get help. As this idea grows, help will become available.

What’s the alternative?

We can bitch and complain, as did our parents and grandparents, (how many times, as a kid, did you hear from an adult, “What are they teaching you in these schools?), but the bottom line is that we have to make this happen. Teaching kids about critical thinking starts at home, with parents willing to answer questions about anything, and provoking more questions from our kids. Teach them to question authority. Even yours. If it has value, it’ll maintain itself when faced by a child’s inquiring mind. Teach them to throw off the yoke of religious intolerance, bigotry and ignorant hate. If we are to pull our country up from the polarized mess we are in, it will take all of us. We have to put aside our differences as adults, demand that our leaders start representing all of us, (instead of the party faithful), and, above all, stop expecting the schools to do the whole job.

Our kids only get one life. It’s up to us to prepare them for it.
Preparing them for college is a whole post unto itself. I’ll hit that next time.