I am beginning to appreciate this blogging thing more with each post I write. What I like best is that these are my ideas and have no effect on anyone except those who choose to accept them. Readers even get to pick and choose which of my ideas they want. I will never know what effect they will have, but I do get to read the comments, and for the most part they are positive. I appreciate the comments that are even more thoughtful than my original post. That being said, I can now post something that some will find upsetting . If you are in that group by the end of the post, come back to this first paragraph and remind yourself of this opening statement. It may have more meaning for you the second time.
Through my entire career in education I have seen plans that were supposed to revolutionize the educational system, the latest attempt being “No Child Left Behind”. Now with this new administration we are looking at merit pay for teachers. A plan flawed in its conception with a great potential to fail and once again target teachers as the reason for failure. I am putting an IMHO here to quell the stirring beasts who are about to pounce on the reply box.
As a teacher of teachers I always instruct my students to have an objective or a goal for every lesson they teach. Their purpose is to focus their thoughts, direction, and energy to accomplish that goal. Most importantly however, they are to assess their students along the way to make adjustments in order to complete the goal.
If we apply that same principle to our educational system, I would expect a positive result. All we have to do is ask the question, “What is the goal of education?” You have to see where this is going by now. The problem is who will answer that question: Politician, Parent, Administrator, Teacher, Student, Tax-payer, or that non-educator sitting on the educational advisory panel? The answers will muddy what should be a clear answer.
Here comes the IMHO again. As far as I can tell, the goal of education is to provide workers for the job force. That seems to be the driving force in everyone’s perception of education in America and probably elsewhere. Before you scroll to the reply box, finish the post. I might say something else to set you off. Employment seems to me, to be the Goal of education. Some might say the goal is to get the student to college. Moving a student to Higher Ed, it is just a hand-off to the college to prepare a student for higher paying employment. Colleges are ruled by the same goal.
The problem with all of this is that when the goal of employment is reached the perception of many is that the need for education, and learning has ended. That is true for many individuals no matter what line of work or whatever profession they enter. That most definitely includes ALL of the professionals in education. Once they get their job there is no longer a need to learn. We have even coined a phrase for those who are exceptions. We call them Life-Long Learners. Those are the people who did not buy into the education- culminates-with-employment idea.
If the goal for Education is employment and a student becomes employed, the goal has been attained. There is no need for continued learning. We have succeeded. If however, that is not the outcome we want, maybe we should go back to the beginning. Let us look at the Goal for which we must focus our thoughts, direction, and energy to accomplish. Maybe it needs tweaking, or clarification, or assessing, or a complete change. As an educator I have to throw all that in, even though IMHO the goal sucks and should be scraped.
It may be time to establish a Goal we can all agree upon. Here is my contribution or the point I would like to make with this discussion. My Goal would be to promote Learning and Literacy through education. “We do that”, you say. If we did, why do so many people stop learning and being literate once they get a job?
At one time people needed to spend time reading books and engaging in conversation and debate and collaboration. It was difficult to do when there was no time or place to do this after one graduated. After all, the goal was attained and there was no need. The Internet has changed all that.
If Administrators made their decisions on whether or not something promotes and supports literacy and learning, many decisions for financing, curriculum, and staffing might be different. If principals had that as a goal, School policies, support of teachers, professional development and even interaction with parents might be more purposeful. Teachers, many who will claim this to be their goal, will be more open to accepting new ideas and new tools for preparing kids to learn beyond the classroom. A skill they will need if we meet the goal of learning and literacy.
Employment and supplying a workforce should not be the goal of educators. That is the stuff of politics. Let the need to continually learn and communicate in a literate manner be the Goal of All educators. All decisions should be weighed with this in mind. All assessments should address this goal. We would need no standardized tests with this as a standardized Goal. IMHO.
Now you can return to my first paragraph and then scroll to the Reply box and leave your comment. I hope my humble opinion has given you pause to reflect.