Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Conversation, anyone?

TO:        Edunationredux Learning Community

DATE:    5 August 2014


Good morning. 

Unless you have been living an artificial life on Facebook, or a simulated one in Sim City, or are a delusional member of Congress, you have likely noted with exasperation that our nation is mired in partisanship among other things, and that it is eroding our society.  The fraction of Americans who think the country is moving in the right direction, based on the most recent survey, is now roughly one-quarter.

Two observations to augment that:  The first, it is frequently assumed that we can lay this on politics and uniquely that system (we’ll pass for now on whether any other system of governance would produce a more admirable result), when the symptoms are highly visible in the venue of this blog, public education; the second, that it is the guy over there, or there, who is the cause, not as the wisdom of Walt Kelly’s Pogo intoned… “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Our public schools, seen as compartmentalized from the above milieu, and above all of that, are not.  Unless one has been, again, immersed in one of the venues of the first sentence, there has to be awareness that our public schools are locked in a no-win cold war, between “corporate reform,” and our one-hundred year old public education bureaucracy that resists change because, candidly, it may mean loss of power, loss of control, damage egos, and on.  The reformers are operating on very bad assumptions and data, and could seem to care less, as long as their personal morality is served.  Our public systems have in turn, by being sycophant to that reform, become the additional enemy of genuine learning for all of the nation’s children. Public systems’ propensity to periodically become scam artists fleecing their taxpayers, and breakdowns in BOE local oversight, can only partially be laid off on “reform.”

A bad scene, but the legitimate objection is, quit grousing, how do we get out of this evolving crater?  Two opinion items that appeared this week start to offer answers.  Their common denominator is an entire nation’s defection in the art of listening, and increasing isolation of views by virtue of a refusal to have a conversation.  The first piece, from The Washington Post, is linked here.  The second is from a program called “The Future of Work,” and essays that issue there; the piece is linked here.  Both communicate, if you’ll pardon the pun, that failure to communicate is one genesis of our woes.

The why of the above is another issue; situational, too much media noise, required by political correctness, or is it as Shakespeare stated… It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”  If the latter, motivation becomes all important; to protect our egos, risk averse to the possibility that we might be wrong, because independent acts of courage may alienate those who can’t find that value, or simply something has left the state of American character?

A reasonable argument is that national leadership starts and blooms when it happens or is reinforced at the grass roots.  That requires the challenges in the two citations be flipped, to start real conversations in every professional venue to solve problems not simply defer them to our progeny.  

Public education, for obvious reasons, is a relevant and timely place to start — if it retains any character at all…


      Ron Willett

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