If there is anything I have learned in recent weeks, it's that reforming public education in the United States requires embracing change, not fearing it. It is amazing how people are unwilling to look at any policy papers because they label the authors as "conservative" or "anti teacher." People will go to great lengths, and even wage personal attacks on people in order to protect the status quo.
Let me be clear. On most social issues, I lean more towards the "left" than most people do. Education, however, is not a "liberal" or "conservative" issue. It's about our children, and the fact that our current system was built for a mass-standardization, Industrial Revolution era in our nation's history. I support innovation, and that requires change. Yet throughout the past few years, and more intensely the past several weeks, I have been branded a "right wing extremist," a supporter of "private vouchers," and someone who supports more corporations getting into the public education arena. Why are people so keen on making judgments about my point of view?
I have been personally attacked on the most anachronistic education blog in Atlanta, called Get Schooled It's author has a clear agenda to attack any trends that might change the system. She is anti-digital learning, anti charter school, protector of local public school monopolies and yet the newspaper she writes for refuses to allow an additional education blog that provides an alternate perspective on education policy impacting Atlanta, and Georgia for that matter. Why is this acceptable? Where is the public outrage?
Again, what I support is systemic change in our education system. Teachers need to be better trained, better evaluated, better compensated, and more flexible in how they teacher our children. Local school boards cannot have exclusive control over charter schools - what is wrong with competition? And how can we innovate if all innovation is stifled by the status quo? Digital learning knows no geographic boundaries, yet how can local school boards put a walled garden around such learning opportunities? Why are teachers, and their unions, afraid that digital learning will result in fewer jobs? What about the positive aspects of digital learning, such as expanding the reach of the best teachers? Or freeing teachers up from administrative tasks to focus more on differentiated instruction? What about improving the operating efficiency of public education by allowing certain pieces of the infrastructure to be run at the state level? Why is it ok that school systems such as Atlanta Public Schools can spend $15K per pupil, yet only graduate 52 percent of its students? There are so many questions I have about public education? I do not disrespect teachers, but their unions are preventing real change, and teachers need more tools to thrive in a digital world.
Our education system MUST change, for the sake of our children. It is time that everyone starts to keep an open mind and start compromising to get things done. The world has changed in the past century, EXCEPT public education. Our children deserve a quality education, and there are few places that are meeting this vision.
If people have the courage to open their minds and start working together to reform public education, then maybe there will still be hope for our children. The United States is the greatest democracy on the planet, but lets stop the partisanship and start collaborating to maintain our international competitiveness for generations to come.