Friday, July 2, 2010

The End

After over two and a half years of blogging on this site, I'm hanging up my laptop. This is going to be my last post, at least for the forseeable future.

When I first started blogging, I didn't have any real goal in mind. Mainly, I thought it would be fun and I wanted to get my voice and my ideas out there. After 30 months, I feel like I've done that. And it has been fun. But there comes a point where I don't really think that I have anything new to say. Rather, I'm just finding new ways to say the same old things. Not that that's necessarily bad. But it's just not what I want to be doing.

So what am I trying to say with all this? Well, after giving it some thought, I think I can lay it out as a couple of big ideas.

1. It's never either/or
Despite all the claims that there's one way to do reform or that someone has found the right way to do anything and everyone who does it differently is wrong, it's a big mistake to start looking at the world as either/or. It's not curriculum vs. accountability or small class sizes vs. merit pay. When we start looking at things that way we're really limiting what we can accomplish. Most of the dichotomies are false and we need to keep that in mind. The problems we face in education are too big to be reduced to a single solution.

2. We need to look beyond schools
Ultimately, the problems in education require solutions that are bigger than can be implemented just in schools. To be sure, the schools themselves can use the work, but they're not alone. If we don't ensure that kids have safe neighborhoods, safe homes, good nutrition, proper health care, and more, how are we going to expect them to be able to learn to their full capacity? I'm not saying that kids can't learn unless their home lives are perfect. Obviously, that's not true. I am saying that if we want to make it easier for ourselves and truly invest in allowing all kids to achieve their potential, you aren't going to be able to do that in six hours a day, 180 days a year.

3. Focus on the schools and neighborhoods that need help
For al the talk about how broken the U.S. education system is, we actually do pretty well on the whole. Most kids get a pretty good education and we still lead the world economy in many of the areas that would be impossible if our whole system was a failure. However, there are schools and neighborhoods who are being failed spectacularly by the system. Those are the schools and neighborhoods that need our attention. Rather than spend all of our time trying to find ways to fix a giant system that, honestly, doesn't need fixing, let's look at where the problem is and fix it there. That might require that we change the whole system, but let's cross that bridge when we come to it. We need to target our solutions to where the problems really are.

4. Words matter
One thing that never fails to infuriate me is the incredible amount of hype and spin that takes place in education and the nearly uncritical reporting of that hype and spin. In the end, words matter because they shape perception and perception shapes how we approach issues. Too many of the words about education are sloppy or outright inaccurate. That leads to a skewed perception and all sorts of craziness. If we want to correct the educational problems in our country, we need to have a serious discussion about them and I don't know if that's possible in the current state of things. I don't know, but I haven't given up hoping.

It's with very mixed feelings that I bring this blog to a close. It has always been a lot of fun to write. I hope that you've also enjoyed reading it.

Thanks for reading and maybe we'll meet again somewhere down the trail.