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Crisis in Context

Today, as I watched the Twitter commentary about speeches on our education “crisis” at the Education Innovation Summit*, I was also cleaning some crap out of my cube, a long delayed task.

Just by coincidence, I ran across a folder of magazine and newspaper stories about the education crisis buried deep in a drawer, carrying headlines like “Saving Our Schools” and “What’s Wrong with Our Teachers”.

They were dated 1983 and were reporting on the Nation at Risk report released in May of that year. “A scathing report demands better teachers and tougher standards”, according to Newsweek.

Also in the mix was material from three or four years earlier, including an issue of Time declaring “Help! Teacher Can’t Teach” (subheaded “The multifaceted crisis of America’s public schools”) and a package of articles from our local newspaper under the banner “Our High Schools: Is Education Secondary?” with more stories of bad teaching.

However, after more than three decades of “crisis”, what’s changed?  Out in the real world, most everything about the way people work, communicate, and learn has shifted radically. The same publications reporting in the early 1980s are now gone or floundering around to find a new business model.

In the classroom, however, not much is different. Some computers, a big expensive whiteboard you can touch instead of a chalk board, emailing parents, and lots and lots of standardized tests.

The fundamental structure of schools remains the same. Instruction is still firmly rooted in the model of teachers delivering information to students and expecting them to recall a certain percentage of it at some point.

We still ask kids to write for an audience of one, and construct filters blocking the outside world from leaking in and preventing students from communicating with any part of it.

The goals of K12 schools certainly haven’t changed, most still being focused on preparing every student to be passed on to college, whether or not that is the best path for their skills and interests.

Oh, and whatever problems we have, it’s the teachers’ fault.

Ok, nothing new here. Same old ranting, although this time with a little bit of context for the current, continuing education crisis.

* It you take a look at the cast of characters at that meeting, you’ll notice no real educators in the speaker list and the major players in the profiting-from-public-education industry as sponsors. Innovation? What innovation?

I also love the “Sold Out” banner. Pretty much describes American education policy.

1 Comment

  1. MarjeeC

    I love the credentials listed for the panelists. For instance, “his research has resulted in numerous grants, dozens of academic articles,”


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