School Reform: Is there any hope?

by Steve Wyckoff on January 14, 2010

Over the last month I’ve had the opportunity to visit with several friends and colleagues. It’s always great to catch up with people, especially those in your profession, that you don’t get to have a conversation with very often. These conversations were eerily familiar. But before I tell you about the conversations I need to tell you about the people.

Each of these individuals is highly successful in their particular niche in education. Each of them is positive, hard-working, and highly respected by their peers. They include nationally prominent speakers, directors of highly successful alternative programs, policy makers, instructional technologists, and school administrators. If you would observe them functioning in a professional setting you would applaud their efforts and results. You would also see that other educators look to them for leadership.

Each of the conversations was similar in that each had just finished a lively and positive professional conversation. But when we sat down to talk each began with a similar, rhetorical question. “Steve, what’s going to happen to education?” The conversations that followed included discussions about the insane focus on standardized tests, memorization and not learning, bored to tears students who are measured by compliance not engagement, the lack of innovation and creativity in education, etc.

These conversations were not out of the ordinary for me. Whenever I’m in a group as a presenter or participant, I always try to have one-on-one conversations where I can really get people to tell me their deepest feelings about our profession. I intentionally try to have conversations with those individuals who in the larger group are upbeat and positive.

It’s alarmingly common that in private these individuals tell me about their frustration level and diminishing hope for public education. And often times they ask, partially rhetorically, how are they going to keep doing what they’re doing. Each day for them is a struggle to remain positive and proactive.

I’m still connecting all the dots in my head, Dan Pink’s new book, Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us, really has me thinking. I’ve listened to it once but I need to listen to it again. And in fact I’ve even bought the hard copy so that I can look up some specific points. For those of you who know me, when I buy the hardcopy of the book it’s serious business.

So in upcoming posts I’ll try to explain what’s become clear to me about the educational system and what drives our educators. As always, leave a comment above to know what you’re thinking.

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