What you are about to read is an excerpt from a book still in progress. Some of the following text may not be in the finished product. For legal and privacy reasons, the names of some individuals have been changed. Although I have been asked before not to use the name of my current place of employment in my blogs, since I am using my real name in the finished product it wouldn’t take much effort for someone to find out where I work. So I will refer to ALL of the schools where I’ve worked by name.
…In my opinion, I wouldn’t be able to say I’m being transparent if I didn’t. As a reminder, this is just a portion of a chapter that I will make available free of charge as an e-book on Amazon next month.
Chapter 1: The Education Industrial Complex
It is interesting to note the United States is the only developed nation in which Public Education is not a constitutional right. I did an internet search looking for an excerpt from the Constitution referencing education and I could find none. When I realized this I also realized every time an educator told their students “you have a right to education in America”, weather they knew it or not this simply is not true. While there is no federal mandate in this regard, legislation has been passed at the state level in all 50 states granting public education. Notice I didn’t throw the word “free” in at the end there. Anyone who’s had any experience in Public anything knows at the end of the day, nothing is free.
Public Education is no exception.
The CNN Docudrama Ivory Tower lays bare an inconvenient truth about Secondary Education: The true reason for the high tuition cost is for the college experience first and foremost. The reason for that is there are certain expectations by those with deep pockets who send their children off the college. The problem highlighted in Ivory Tower is so much is being spent on maintaining the image that the quality of education itself has been left at the wayside.
The situation is much worse where Primary Education (K-12) is concerned. Due to the absence of proper federal legislation, each state and school district is left to decide best practices and what standards they want to adopt and/or enforce. On the one hand it encourages competition between districts but on the other hand, the generalization doesn’t take students who need a more customized blueprint into account. There is a heavy-handed emphasis in most disricts on teaching as many students as possible using a cookie-cutter syllabus but as every parent and educator will tell you, one size does not fit all.
This is what I call the Education Industrial Complex.
Its purpose is simply to move students from grade to grade (starting at third grade in many districts) using third party tests developed by companies with no investment in public eduction aside from making a profit. The third party test providers get paid weather students pass or fail. Their sole purpose is to provide “the measuring stick”. As many educators have come to understand in the last 20 years, the measuring stick doesn’t have to be fair for all.
What’s also true is there are schools actoss America that have chosen to chart their own–or rather their student’s–destinies. The majority of them are private schools but some of them are public. The Mission Hill School in Boston is one such school. I know because I worked there from 2012 to 2015 and in a different grade each year. The Mission Hill School has an emphasis on not just serving the student’s academic needs but also their social and emotional needs. The school also teaches students to learn, not test. Having worked at other schools in the district, these values are why parents of Mission Hill students hold the school in such high regard.
Buzzwords like “Autonomous Schools”, “Progressive Education” and “Democratic Schools” are thrown around when a school or a district decides to break the mold and chart its own course. Champions of Progressive Education like Ron Berger and Deborah Meier emphasize putting the needs of the student above everything else. It’s on all of the adults in the student’s life to do what they can to help the student on this crazy journey we call life. To not give them everything we can would be worse than doing nothing at all.
I’ll pause for a moment and say although I believe Progressive Education is an answer, it is just one answer. While yes there are progressive schools in America that have thrived for decades, this has yet to be done on a district-wide scale. I say this because although there are lawmakers who would love to use progressive schools as a blueprint, there is not enough data at the district-wide level to make a district-wide policy. It is of my opinion the best way to make headway towards adopting fair and sustainable policies would be legislation at the federal level. This will (hopefully!) provide certain protections and layers of accountability No Child Left Behind (2002-2011) lacked.
Until this is done, American Schools will never have the support they deserve to do the work they were built to do.
This is the end of the preview.
The rest of the chapter comes next month during Boston’s school break week. I wrote this chapter myself though in other chapters, I either cowrote it with someone or someone else wrote the whole chapter. As of this blog post I have 3 co-authors: A BPS Educator, a Parent of a BPS Student and a BPS Student. None of them are related to me and none of them have a connection to my current place of employment.
I have been doing research on public education in general since I was in high school. When I started working for the same district I graduated from, certain questions arose in my mind:
Why is there such a heavy emphasis on teaching students to take a standardized test knowing most of the material being tested is not a part of the district curriculum?
Why are students who struggle in Literacy and Math being pushed along grade to grade instead of being given the invdividualized education they deserve?
Why is there no outrage from the public at what’s been an injustice to give our students what they need and deserve nationwide?
This isn’t an issue of predominately black student districts vs. predominately white student districts. In fact, those who use this rhetoric are not seeing the bigger picture. Those who call it a matter of national security couldn’t have said better. We’re at a very critical time in America where education is concerned. If we do not do something about our dysfunctional education system during this generation, the chain reaction to come as a result will have catastrophic consequences.
I’ll speak more to this in a later chapter.
The rest of Chapter 1 comes next month!