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Status Quo, Only More So

This is a long, rambling post since it draws on several different sources, together with a large mixture of thoughts from last weekend’s EduCon (and I’m not entirely sure I’m making my points :-).

Anyway, let’s start with a post from earlier this week in which Seth Godin asks Who Will Save Us?

He’s discussing ongoing efforts to rescue the publishing industry but it got me thinking about how much has been written around the theme of “saving” public education as well.

And Godin’s warning to media applies equally to us.

If by save you mean, “what will keep things just as they are?” then the answer is nothing will. It’s over.

Politicians and education “experts” talk a lot about school improvement and reforming the system.

But take a closer look at their ideas makes clear that their overall goal is to maintain the status quo, and make it even quoier if possible.

Evidence of that comes from the article from the Post, also this week, about possible “fixes” to NCLB and especially changes in the adequate yearly progress (AYP) provisions of that law.

Much remains unclear about how Obama would hold schools accountable for results. Experts call it unlikely that the president would seek to junk a results-oriented system that is ingrained in 50 states and the District. In fact, the administration will still rely on those data to compile lists of struggling schools it wants to turn around.

Except that “results-oriented system” doesn’t work. And the administration won’t get rid of it because it’s “ingrained”.

Even worse, that ingrained system, with “results” based entirely on high-stakes standardized testing, has actually made American education worse over the past decade, by obsessively narrowing both the curriculum and teaching methods to focus only the tested topics.

So now we come back to EduCon and specifically to an unscheduled discussion that followed the session I facilitated.

One that boiled down to the idea that the conference gathers together some very smart and dedicated educators for intelligent conversations, but where’s the change to make all these ideas a reality?

Will is asking very much the same thing in his reflections on the weekend.

But while most in attendance want to change the classrooms and the schools they work in, that vision of change is still amorphous. Jon Becker wrote about that fact pre Educon, and I hope he follows up with more thoughts post. I mean David Warlick and others were talking about creating a new story for education like four years ago and we still don’t seem to have a handle on it.

It was a theme that was running around in my head for those three days and one that I heard from others attending, especially those of us who have been part of this event going back to 2007 EduBloggerCon where the idea for EduCon was born.

Ok, what do we do about it? How do we turn lots of good ideas into action?

How do we get our communities to realize that the top down process of teaching and learning no longer works?

That students must take an integral role in both the planning and execution of their own education?

That we need to trust teachers make good decisions for their students and not just follow the script leading to the spring tests?

If you’ve read this far, you probably understand that I have many more questions than answers, and even those need a whole lot more thought.

The ideal would be that this growing EduCon community turns into a grass roots effort to truly change American education one school/district at a time.

Of course, it’s going to take more effort than just getting together once a year to talk and connecting through social media the rest of the time. Maybe the theme of next year’s EduCon needs to be, in the words of the King, a little less talk and a lot more action.

Because it’s frustrating to watch our “leaders” (local, state, national, take your pick) pushing programs to “save” American education when it should be clear that our kids need something better than reinforcing the status quo.


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1 Comment

  1. Tim—I don’t have any answers for you. However…

    Your questions about what it takes have been much on my mind, too. I have wanted to go to Educon the last couple of years, but the frustrating lack of outcomes (“What will you do on Monday?” as Dan Meyer would say) will probably keep me away. Conversation is all good and well, but at some point, the all talk/no action model gets old.

    I went to ScienceOnline 2010 in January. And while it, too, did not organize around a call to action, it had several advantages over Educon—most notably being the diversity of roles. There were science artists, writers, editors, bloggers, teachers, students, practitioners (i.e. doctors, researchers…), and so forth. This was a community organized around an idea. Participants created the wiki with conversations they wanted to have, people volunteered to facilitate, and in the end, everyone got a voice. There was no committee weeding out proposals—deciding what the rest of us had to choose from.

    There is bandying about of an Educon-like conference for the west coast. I am hoping for something that is more like ScienceOnline in terms of organization and vision with some sort of “call to action” embedded. Not sure what this will look like yet (or if it will materialize), but I think that by making connections with everyone involved/interested in public education and focusing our efforts, we could start to find the answers we’re looking for.

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