“Q) What’s your big takeaway after 41 years?
A) Parents used to send kids to school because that’s where the knowledge was. They were also interested in socialization and custodial care. That’s all changed. And it’s not clear schools have responded as briskly as they should have. Today knowledge is everywhere with the internet. We have apps for socialization. And custodial care is a shaky justification for schools. Educators need to find their way in this new world.”
The above quote is excerpted from a Washington Post article in which journalist James Harvey interviewed veteran journalist and author, John Merrow. Merrow reflected on his career as a journalist for both PBS NewsHour and NPR- National Public Radio.
We should all be compelled to increase our capacity as professionals in education and other industries that are either service-oriented or any careers that entail interacting with a largely diverse public. We must communicate appropriately, effectively, emphatically and respond respectfully in our day-to-day lives. It is incumbent upon us to be equipped with broader mindsets and increased awareness of other people’s reality and how we may influence or impact their lives. Practice Mindfulness!
Education has taken a new turn-a better turn – one that is more considerate of diversity, mindful incorporation of technology within expanded whole child/family/community-oriented perspectives on 21st Century Community Resource Learning Center schools. But, that is at the policy level. What must happen is a top-down collaborative to effectively translate policy into practice. Also, expect targeted outreach to connect with families as valuable partners in learning and the decision making process.
Q) If you had a favorite bumper sticker about schools, what would it be?
A) We need a system that asks each child, “How are you intelligent?” not “How intelligent are you?”
There is more. Merrow, when asked about the “achievement gap” and other problems in public education, stated what we already knew. We can’t rely on tests alone to ‘fix’ education. These heavily relied upon tests only cost 15 cents per 100, and this level of spending clearly demonstrates our national commitment to ‘fix’ education. In comparison to our federal expenditures in education, Hartz spends 10 times as much, just to test flea powder. Flea powder?!!! No wonder we have problems.
We aren’t prioritizing education, or the children, some of whom will be our future leaders. Whether black, white, rich or poor, education is supposed to be the great equalizer in society to level the playing field. It is supposed to even the odds through equitable access and opportunity. Yes, but when data outcomes aren’t favorable, we cast blame onto teachers and evaluate their performance levels based upon test scores.
Teachers, at the classroom level alone, can’t ‘fix’ our problems, for it is a systemic initiative that helped create them. Therefore, it is a systemic, top-down initiative that will effect positive change. I believe that most of our teachers are competent in their ability to deliver sound instruction, but the instructional materials are outdated, irrelevant and disrespectful of both the students and the ‘truth’. The truth, if taught in school, will promote a more inclusive, colorful and complete mosaic with rich tiles of diversity. The diversity that is presented to students would not be exclusive of African-Americans and their contributions. Greece, Italy, Asia, and every pocket of the globe already widely boasts societal contributions. So can people of African descent, if told honestly. Multicultural education that’s supported by instructional materials is more respectful and complementary to the diversity of students and families.
Try differentiation to meet individual academic AND cultural needs in the best interest of learners.
Crucial to attacking the disparities and gaps of inequity in schools and society is in effective preparation, policy revisions, and parent partnerships.
We can’t expect cheap solutions to solve an expensive problem. That’s what we have been doing nonetheless, though!
Q) And your biggest fear?
A) I worry that schools will remain isolated from the larger society and be expected to solve problems for which they are not equipped. We need to stop blathering about the “achievement gap” while isolating children by race and economics. Community schools and the like are essential.
Once again, a now retired journalist who has interviewed numerous U.S. Secretaries of Education, Merrow possesses deep insight. In my humble opinion, he has 20/20 vision regarding the state of public education. In fact, he began the now quite public inquiry into Success Academy Charter Schools in NYC. He originally questioned the “Code of Conduct” adopted by the schools. That probe has since snowballed into a deeper examination of root causes of disparities and higher suspension rates for students of color in public and charter schools.
For myself, it is inconceivable as to why and how an elementary student gets suspended in the first place. But then again, it makes complete sense that this would, will, and is happening in schools everyday. It all points to cultural competency not better pedagogy, but more mindful pedagogical practices.
Diversity and technology must find its way into teacher/educator training, pre service and in-service, and into the consciousness of the professionals whose charge is to engage, awaken potential and impart knowledge to ALL learners in ALL school settings.
We must raise our conscious awareness of the need for a full rewrite, revision, and transformation of the framework of education. We need to ‘show and prove’ that our commitment to ensuring a quality public educational experience is available to ALL children. Shouldn’t we care about all children or continue business as usual- location, income and race based education?