My Bad Week ***Or*** How a Stolen Motorcycle Proves that Most Education Pundits Know Nothing About Education.
My brand new, owned it for less than six months, only had 2000 miles on it, motorcycle was stolen Saturday night.
What, you may ask, does that have to do with education policy? So glad you asked. Let me connect the dots for you.
As most anybody would, after I talked with the police I called my insurance agent, whose company will remain unnamed to protect the guilty, to report the stolen bike. Now, an important word in this reporting process is stolen. Filched. Misappropriated. Pinched. Purloined. Gone. In the arms of another.
This is important because a few days after making the report I was contacted by a claims adjuster that made the following request –
“Please make an appointment for us to inspect your vehicle.”
Um… You do understand that because it was stolen, it would be rather hard, you might even say impossible, to have my, again this an important word, stolen motorcycle inspected due to the nature of it being, you know, stolen, and therefore no longer in my possession.
So, I contacted the adjuster and left them a message letting them know that I couldn’t have the bike inspected. What with the being stolen and all. I got another call apologizing for the confusion stating that it is a standardized form and please download this app to continue the process.
On to the internet to download the app.
Aaannndd it wants me to upload a picture of the damage done to my stolen vehicle.
Sigh. The joy of standardized forms.
A major insurance business can’t be bothered to differentiate between a vehicle crash and a vehicle theft. You’d think that might be an important distinction to make as in the business of insurance it would be important to know what you are paying out for, because it could drastically change the size of the check your business needs to write. But no, it’s more important that the process have as little variation as possible to keep the costs down. Never mind that it might cause mistakes and cause you to look foolish.
This is where the connection to education comes in.
For the last thirty years or so, one of the constantly used and loudest refrains from the education reformers is that schools need to be run like a business.
OK. Based on the above business model as demonstrated by a very large and successful business and going on the knowledge that we need to be running schools like a business, this is what I propose:
No more Individual Education Plans for special education students. In fact, no more special education at all.
No more extra tutoring for all the various college entrance exams.
No more special low-cost lunch programs.
I can hear some of you cheering and to this I say not so fast! This mandate includes ALL extra non-standardized education costs.
No more Advance Placement classes for excelling students. (Fun Fact! Did you know that AP classes technically fall under the special education umbrella?)
No more band.
No more arts.
No more football.
No more baseball.
No more basketball.
No more track and field.
No more soccer.
No more sports of any kind.
No more late pick up.
No more early drop off.
Basically, if it does not pertain to the standardized class worksheets it needs to go. Just like in business.
There you have it: education running like a business as requested by the education reformers. I’m sure parents around the nation can’t wait for this system to get going and we all start seeing the results of this standardized business based school system.
I used to teach at a school with a banner at the entrance that stated “Failure is not an option.”
This is amazingly wrong and I wish this nation would get over this poor idea.
Failure is not only an option, it is a necessity. Children need to fail. They need to trip, crash and burn, and fall while they still have the ability to bounce. This is not to say that parents shouldn’t try to protect their children, but they need to understand that failure is not the end. Failure is a beginning, a crucible that forges a strong mind and heart that is needed in order to thrive in the world.
Failure gives us the power to overcome and conquer.
Failure gives us empathy.
Failure keeps our ego in check.
Failure is a master teacher and it is better to learn its lessons early while life is still a game. To fear failure is to allow it to conquer us.
So parents, let your children stumble. Teachers, go ahead and use the red pen. Let them drift and then help pick up the pieces so they may trip again. And again. And again. To keep failure at bay underestimates a child’s ability to overcome. Continual blocking of failure will make the eventual failure that much harder to overcome when they run into it in an adult world that lacks the time or inclination to help those that give up because something is seen to be too hard.
A reader asked me recently about why have schools close for MLK day. The point was made that these kids were getting out of school with no idea as to why or how big of an impact he had on our nation. Wouldn't it be better to keep them in school and have them study about Dr. King for the day?
This is my response -
I’ve been spending some time thinking about the issue you brought up about a day off for MLK. Unfortunately, you have run head first into an issue that is controlled entirely by money.
The main problem with any discussion about education policy in the United States is how education policy is thought of. If you listen to policy makers in other nations, they talk about education as an investment in the future. They don’t expect results today or tomorrow and they see education as a way to make a better nation generations into the future. To them education is a long term investment. Now take a moment to listen to talk of education policy in the United States. Education is a cost. It is an expenditure that must be controlled and results should be seen tomorrow if not sooner. No fast results? The cost is not worth it. Gotta protect the bottom line.
What does this have to do with a school holiday? First understand that school calendars are probably the cause of some of the most heated debates in school administration. Every person in the room, no matter how important or unimportant, no matter how informed or uninformed, wants his or her say and usually gets it. That’s a lot of voices shouting for their own cause and many many many compromises are made. Most of these compromises are made in the name of money. Hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars can be made or lost in a school budget based on when children are in school. Many districts across the US have looked into a four day week simply for the cost savings that can be generated by turning the lights off for an extra day. Parents screaming about the personal cost to them for daycare is the only force preventing this idea from taking hold. (Of course their voting for every tax cut that comes along is what destroyed the school budgets in the first place, but that is a rant for another time.)
You can’t find a better example of money making decisions better than the year round school argument. Countless reams of research have been printed on the benefits of year round schooling. It is well documented that year round school prevents loss of educational gains over summer. Especially for those low income and special ed students that keep getting left behind. Many have commented on the question of why is our school calendar based on an 18th century agricultural model (kids get summer break so they can stay home and help with the harvest) when we are educating for the 21st century and beyond? The answer is money. Forgetting about the argument about teacher pay, just consider the thought of keeping a campus of 2000 teenagers cool in the middle of August. Who is going to pay that bill?
Money even dictates the time of day that class starts. Just as in the year round argument numerous studies have proven what every parent knows: teenagers don’t do mornings. So why don’t high schools start later in the day? Bus schedules. It costs too much to keep the busses running all day and many high school students can use alternate transportation to get to school so they get the short end of the stick. The district could buy more busses and hire more drivers but…
As far as keeping students in school and having a day to look at the impact of MLK when are you going to fit it in? Schools already loose close to a month of teaching time each year to various federal, state, and district mandated testing, not to mention all of the various other social education programs such as say no to drugs and various be nice to each other programs. More days could be added to the calendar, but it costs money to open the doors and remember costs in education in the United States are to be avoided whenever possible. Especially for academics. Also, there is no test covering MLK so there is no reason to lose instructional time on something that is not tested. That is the ultimate reality in education right now.
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