Chalk Dust Education to New Age Education Revolution
By: Gary R. Carlson Ed. D.
Just how difficult is it to see what is happening in our education system? Our population in the United States of America have experienced for well over 200 years an education system that grew out of a growing country’s needs for individuals, communities and civic responsibilities. Through all the challenges and growth pains our society never quit holding education as a necessity for our citizens. It was concluded by most all families and citizens a good education was the ticket to prosperity. From Mayor to President of the United States elections had education of our populous as a major priority. Responsibility remained at the state level and each state would review their needs with a consideration for their own citizens needs. As our economy grew from community to state to country to world wide our view of education became much more global. The value of education went from just a community to looking at world wide education system. In my lifetime I have never heard a politician who was against educating our American citizens at all levels from pre-school to higher education. I’ve worked in education now for forty-six years as a teacher, counselor, special educator, researcher, vice president for incarcerated youth residence and school, president of a college and chief academic officer for one hundred and twenty colleges. This journey has allowed me to work with many individuals, institutions, businesses, governments (local, state, federal), which has been a blessing to discover what we would consider the good, bad and ugly in our schools. The past five years I have been traveling the country working with schools and serving on boards with the goal of improving school’s outcomes for student success and teacher success.
From my perspective it is without question we are in a need for some refreshing and progressive changes in our schools. So much that has been implemented in the past ten or more years has been traditional and without any great success. Why is that? Our system is broke and because of our current jurisdictions of rules and regulations it becomes harder and harder to make any true measurable significant increases in our education opportunities. In our large metropolitan schools with minority populations we are realizing larger dropout rates and escalating crimes committed by school age populations.
Our President of the United State has communicated how important is that everyone needs the opportunity to attend college. Now, I want all of you to think about how realistic and intelligent a statement like this will satisfy the needs of our populations today. This statement makes the assumption that all our youth today need to be geared in their primary and secondary education to prepare for college. It is with great knowledge that not all our students want or plan to go to college. So how does our education system account for these students by accommodating them into other useful endeavors? I have four older children, twin boys, daughter and a twenty-two old son. It would be no surprise to any of you if I said they are completely different. Each of them pursued a life of what would be within their goals of a lifestyle and rewards for their contribution to work. I have two entrepreneurs, a teacher and a laborer. They would be the first to tell everyone college is not for everybody. That being said our schools are in need of some complete reworks for how we approach our students and train our teachers. Our lip service of no child left behind to everyone going to college are both without foundation of knowledge of what our schools are dealing with and what is really going on in our education systems. For as long as I can remember we have used standardized testing to measure our school’s success and with these outcomes have held their feet to the fire. No surprise this has not really worked. We are no longer an agrarian or industrial society. If we are still relying on the way, we always did business we are destined to failure. Our decisions for the future should not be for self preservation with doing the same things all over again. Change is inevitable for us to move forward in our schools at all levels.
Let’s for a moment talk about how the current system implements change. Much of the direction and approval for change is from a top down approach. Ask yourself for those that make these strategic changes to the school systems for change are actually familiar with the real in the ditches at ground level school needs. It has become more and more clear to me the best ideas come directly from the great teachers in the schools. They seem to be creative, innovative and with true vision of who their students are and what they need. When we continue to allow change decisions to come from the most removed participants we hamper our student’s success. We then experience more failure in accomplishing our true goals. Every school or college I visit has tremendous brain trusts that have a great perspective of how to solve many of our ongoing issues. Our U.S. Department of Education is truly out of touch with the local community schools needs and accomplishments.
Methods and materials today in the classroom have needed a compete re-engineering. It is not effective thinking to look at how we were educated and expect that to work today. My seven grandchildren are not the same student I was or my own children. Our schools will always need to be aware of their student clients and make sure they are ready for the current and future society they will live. I know we want the best for our youth to grow them to their best potential. Potential is the key word. It is sometimes best to know exactly what the potential of someone might be before we can act on the path to take to give them an opportunity. Technology today has given us the solution to make the classroom an exciting and rewarding experience for all.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about how our critiques of schools by individuals who have no knowledge of how schools work or should work. They criticize institutions but don’t actually know what is going on in the classrooms. The only approach is negative and destructive to the school system. When I speak of this I am including all student levels and institutions offering education. My fortune is to have visited and worked at all types of institutions. It is with assurance that I can tell you that in all instance there are great people in very institution I have been involved. This includes public, private, and for pro-fit schools. It is quite easy today with social media today to produce sensational journalism to attempt to scapegoat a company, institution or organization. Each of us know the outcomes when we scapegoat people who are present in the company, institution or organization are usually immeasurably damaged by comments or destruction. This is evident when schools who have had accomplished great successes with students and top down decision makers had no idea about any of these accomplishments. My request to you is to be sure to be the critique of those who are making the accusations and to dig a little deeper to see who they really are damaging. Every time we put our students out we are damaging a community and lives.
The United States is a great nation and we have the beauty of understanding a country that was always built on diversity. It is now our opportunity to address the needs for our schools and make changes that measure outcomes by growth through appropriate development for our professionals and students. Our performances are based on growing with support that meet the needs of our students. We have need for education and training. Where ever our students fit into this equation we need to offer the opportunity. Not everyone needs to go to college! Our country has great need for college graduates, trades educated people and service industry people. Lets not get so narrow we only look at narrow view of what is possible.
Opportunity in the future is about the identifying an individual’s potential so they can have a life full-filled success. It is now time to stop tearing down but to begin building up.