By Peter Smirniotopoulos in Huffington Post.
This is the second in a three-part series on the need for education reform in the United States. The first installment, ”Doubling-Down on Dumb: The GOP War on Being Smart,” explored the emerging political discourse criticizing public education and being well-educated, and how the toxic environment it creates makes real reform even more problematic. This installment argues in favor of a paradigm shift in primary and secondary education.
In early October 2011, I wrote “Three Innovative Ideas, Which Could Help the Economy,… but No One’s Talking About Them,” In that blog entry I argued that comprehensive education reform was one “innovative idea” that could help transform the domestic economy. Specifically, I suggested that:….
One of our greatest problems as a nation is the continued demise of long-term thinking. As the struggle to escape from the country’s economic doldrums has slogged on, the focus on short-term fixes has, regrettably, become increasingly acute. I used to do a lot of work for colleges and universities (in addition and unrelated to teaching at the graduate level), which offered a very different perspective on long-term thinking. The average person tends to focus on the near-term: a 24-hour period; the time leading up to a holiday or event; an entire month, perhaps; maybe even a 365-day increment.
Academic institutions, on the other hand, tend to look at twenty-five, 50, and 100-year increments. The things they create are intended to have real permanence. Even when they build new buildings, the tendency is to have them designed and constructed as if to appear like they’ve always been there. We need to have this kind of long-term approach to reforming America’s primary and secondary education systems.
Unfortunately, “new ideas” about fixing our public education system have a decidedly short-term nature. They are often focused on addressing a particular problem, making these proposed solutions more reactionary and less intentional; less well-focused. Much in the way of education reform these days is predicated on the need for cost-cutting and/or cost controls, with little to no regard for the potential negative consequences of such resource reductions. Additionally, some “reforms” are intended to allow (or force) school districts to purge the faculty, by creating metrics for success focused not on whether, what, and how students are learning but, instead, on evaluating teachers, school administrators, and school districts….