For some reason it seems to me that educators lack the where-with-all to seize the moment and make use a good crisis to redefine how we do business. Despite finding ourselves in the spotlight on many occasions, where demands for educational reform were prolific, we responded with ‘more of the same.’
From the launching of Sputnik by the Russians in the late 50s, to the release of the report “A Nation at Risk” in the early 80’s, to the implementation of “No Child Left Behind” under President Bush, our response has been to do MORE of the same when educational reform is being demanded. Add more time, more standards, more required classes for college admissions, more high-stakes one-shot tests, more graduation requirements…. You get the picture.
So here we are today in 2011 with an economic crisis like none we’ve seen in America since perhaps the 1920’s. Revenues from taxes continue to fall far short of meeting the demands of a system that has grown ‘fat,’ at all levels of government–local, state, and federal. Public education in Kansas and many other states has not been spared the discomfort of deep cuts and more are likely on the horizon.
Yet, through all this, the primary response from education has been to try to protect current funding. Very few educators or leaders outside of education have asked if we were to take advantage of this financial crisis and make REAL changes in the educational system, what might be possible with less money. I have long contended that many ‘educational’ decisions are made based on the need for custodial daycare.
Maybe it is time to recognize the core business of education and make decisions that support the mission with which we are charged. In our current system, time is fixed and learning is variable. What would an educational system look like if learning were the constant and time as well as delivery systems became the variables?