School change: College, the tail waging the dog

by Steve Wyckoff on July 15, 2010

I believe it was George Bernard Shaw who said, “all great ideas began as blasphemy.” Well, here’s some blasphemy for you, when it comes to school change our universities are the tail wagging the dog. We spend at the least 80% of our time in K-12 education preparing kids for a four-year liberal arts degree. Well I say enough is enough!

It’s time for those of us in K-12 education to ignore the universities. Even better, tell them to stick it where the sun don’t shine! We need to focus on what’s best for our kids and, in spite of the rhetoric from politicians, going to a four-year college is not best for all kids.

Yet we continue to kowtow to universities as they tell us what we must teach, how we must teach it, and even how we must organize to teach it. Our universities are as out of date as our K-12 schools, and in many ways, the cause of our obsolescence.

Don’t get me wrong a university degree is extremely important for about 25% of our population. And most universities do a wonderful job with some of their students. But it has become nothing more than a sorting process where we prepare every student to go to colleges and then they systematically weed out all but the best performers.

That used to be an appropriate and effective because those students who are simply sloughed off of the system could still go out and find good, high-paying jobs. That’s no longer the case. Which means we can no longer allow our universities the luxury of running a process of survival of the fittest.

Real school change will focus on the needs of our students not the wishes of our universities. – Steve Wyckoff

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