"After living with their dysfunctional behavior for so many years (a sunk cost if ever there was one), people become invested in defending their dysfunctions rather than changing them."
— Marshall Goldsmith
I for one am glad that 2013 is behind us. We have seen the establishment in public education work feverishly to oppose any and all new ed reform efforts. These include the relentless opposition by self interest groups to try and dismantle the Common Core and the assessments attached to it, not too dissimilar from efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We have also seen misinformation and paranoia in efforts to bring cloud computing to the K-12 market, and wreck havoc on the efforts of Gates-backed nonprofit organization InBloom to try and create efficiencies with student information and learning management systems WHILE protecting personal student data. We have also seen feverish opposition to research-backed proposals to evaluate and measure effective teaching. In all, it's been a brutal year to be an ed reformer.
Now let me be clear here. Not all of the policies are the right ones. We live in republic that after 225 years is still torn between federalism and state-driven policies. The battle fronts have never been more dangerous than they are at present. Reformers must work harder to build a spirit of collaboration with educators where possible. Change will not come easy, and despite the recent backlash over the PISA results, those of us who have worked in Corporate America know full well that despite the incredible wealth of the United States, our education system is not churning out graduates who are prepared to succeed in careers, and life for that matter. Moreover, our international peers are hungry, and their education systems, regardless of what we might think about their tactics, are working.
We should be able to use the power of technology to ensure that every child, regardless of socioeconomic background, gets a quality education. And we know from research at organizations such as CASEL that social and emotional learning might be the missing piece in the puzzle. There are many programs successfully teaching at-risk youth and removing the excuse of poverty. A child in a poor home should be able to get a rich learning experience outside the home.
I wish that in the year 2014 we can get all parties to stop clinging to positions and start focusing on interests - our children's interests. If they embrace the principles of the well-known book Getting to Yes, then perhaps we'll see some progress. At the end of the day, we know that disruptive innovation works because change only happens when those inventions below the radar start to hit the radar from a position of strength. I hope that in 2014 we can all get on the same page and create a new spirit of collaboration in order to get the United States back where it belongs: a leader in educating its citizens, from cradle to grave.
Maybe I'm still the Cockeyed Optimist of which I blogged about a few years ago. But hope is what our country is known for. And it should always be in the hearts and minds of every child. Public education can instill that sense of hope and wonder - isn't that what learning is all about?