High school reform? Forget the experts!
I was browsing through the blogosphere, and I came upon a U.S. News and World Report piece titled "The Future of High School Reform." The subtitle to the article read, "Education experts voice their ideas at U.S. News's education summit." I thought, "Hey, that looks interesting!" So I read the entire article...And didn't find one worthwhile thing.
Oh, the wizards in the discussion talked about "one-size fits all," standards, charter schools, the need for better teachers, and a lot of pie-in-the-sky theory, but there was not one thing that any of them said that indicated to me that any of them had any idea about what the real problems are in American education. When talking about low achievement, not one word about discipline and not one word about student effort. Anyone who has spent any time in a classroom knows that those are the things that matter more than anything else, but not one word about them. NOT ONE! I'd love to give you a quote from the article, but there wasn't anything worth quoting. How a group of people who are supposedly so knowledgeable about a subject that I am so interested in could manage to bore me the way they did is amazing. What is depressing is that these are the people who public officials turn to when making policy. Honestly, I don't think they have a clue.
There was one idea I ran into in my browsing that was at least worth discussing, and that came in this seemingly off-hand remark by Joanne Jacobs:
I think public schools can enforce values too. Let kids who don’t want to behave go to the Socialization Center, where they can watch movies and play video games to prepare for a lifetime of unemployment. Those who wish to learn can attend safe, orderly schools devoted to that purpose. Most kids don’t want to be losers. They’d choose a real school, if one was available.
I like the concept of separating the wheat from the chaff, but I'm afraid that among some groups of kids, Joanne is overly optimistic about how few kids would choose to go off to the "Socialization Center."
Our hockey season began on November 17th, and I am reminded that if we really want to improve high school education in America, all we have to do is look at high school athletics. That is where the effort to achieve excellence takes place in American education. There are three major differences between high school athletics and the classroom:
1. The kids who take part in athletics choose to be there.
2. No one has "the right" to be on a team. If a player refuses to conform, the coach can dismiss them. (Since our players know this is the case, we rarely have to do it. We have dismissed a total of two players in the twenty years I've been at Warroad.)
3. Coaches can easily be fired if the administration is unhappy with them.
I am not saying that we have to run our classrooms exactly like our athletic teams, but I truly believe that anything we need to improve high school education in America is contained in the three points above.