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What's Wrong with Our Public School System?

 

Conventional Wisdom says to get back to the basics the three R's. Convention Wisdom is not even a reasonable facsimile for intelligence but it's an excellent stand-in for conformity. As Albert Einstein said: “The only sure way to never make mistakes is to have no new ideas.”  Stay with the tried and true of conventional wisdom and that's what you will get, but of course there will be no progress either.

Anything negative regarding our public education system goes double for the “Charter Schools”—a Wall Street educational system on steroids designed to ultimately be run for profit like any other Wall Street corporation for the investors and special interests such as religion—“mine of course, not yours”. 

Sorry I missed a recent community meeting sponsored by Garland ISD on improving education for our students here in Garland.  However I did watch the two TED talks delivered by Sir Ken Robinson that explored the question “Do Schools Kill Creativity” and  “Bring on the Learning Revolution” and took the online survey. (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Garland_English )

Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we're educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.  And I believe that he is definitely on the right track.

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What is wrong with our public school system in the USA is basically what’s wrong with the culture of our nation.   First of all we have sold out to the top-down management style of Wall Street—a management style that results in the manufacture of cookie cutter products and services. (How different is a McDonalds in Des Moines from one in Dallas? and that is exactly what you get with the Wall Street model--a system designed for conformity and predictability, a design that will turn out satisfied investors.)

This top down corporate conformity management style for our schools is as mechanistic as any industrial operation designed to produce products that conform—which is fine for mechanical objects, but not for kids.  This unnatural approach to education sacrifices the heart and soul of creativity and innovation to conformity. It is an educational style that caters to the middle of the road and leaves students at either end of that bell-shaped curve (which in many ways defines a student’s ability to conform) out of the picture.

 In one of his TED talks Ken Robinson told the story of Gillian Lynne who grew up in the 1930’s in London.  She couldn’t sit still in school.  Her mother took to her a psychiatrist.  This was in the days before Attention Deficit Disorder was invented; otherwise Gilliam Lynne would have likely been medicated out of a brilliant career. As it turned out the psychiatrist told her mother to put her in a dance school.  The rest is history.  Gillian Lynne became a renowned British ballerina who, after turning to choreography, created the sinuous dances in Andrew Lloyd Webber's “Cats,” which became the longest-running musical in London's West End and on Broadway.

Here is another, closer to home story of “Attention Deficit Disorder”.  I went to school at North Texas University as an art student.  My parents insisted that I graduate with a “useful” degree so they insisted that I get a teaching certificate while I was there.  In my senior year, one semester was devoted to student teaching in the school lab.  As it turned out, the teacher I was to work with got Mono and was out for almost two months.  Another teacher would checkup on me about twice a week.

I had a male student in my class who was so disruptive that it made it impossible for me to teach the class.  On my third day, I asked him to stay for a few minutes to talk with me.  It turned out that I knew his father—a biology professor and terrible tyrant that I had endured for my required science class.  I asked the kid what he thought might help him gain better control over his behavior because things couldn’t go on the way they were as it was keeping the other students from learning.  He thought for a minute and then said:  “Well maybe if I could pound a basketball in the gym next door for a while and then come to class.”

There were no classes in the gym that same period so I allowed him to do it. At first he was in the gym almost the entire class but gradually over a two-week period he returned earlier and earlier to class and became an active participant in the art activities.  Unfortunately, the teacher inspector stopped in one day when he was returning from the gym.  I was reported to the principal who had a chat with me about why my solution was not acceptable.  After that experience, I decided that I didn’t want to be a part of the “system” when I graduated.

All students are individuals with different kinds of intelligence. This is the point that Robinson drives home in his TED talks and he is right. When we only respect and cater to an intelligence that rewards math and science, we all lose out from our one-size-fits all educational system. The innovators and creative thinkers are the ones who bring forth all the new ideas and things that move our civilization forward—not the conformists who do as they are told and are part of group think one-size-fits-all system.

Not only does the current USA educational system pay homage to math and science and test rigorously to ensure that students meet these standards—the only plan they have for the studentS who don’t meet these expectations is to punish the teachers for “not doing a better job" of cramming kids into their cookie cutter idea of education. 

Instead of having our schools controlled like a Wall Street corporation with the top tier being members of a state board of education choosing textbooks of outdated information whose members are often more interested in furthering their political and religious agendas than they are with education of our children, we need to give more decision-making power to our teachers.  And in conclusion, since our teachers have the most important job in our society—the quality of the future of our nation, they should be paid accordingly.  It is absurd that we live in a nation that pays higher salaries to professional ball players than to our teachers.  All this needs to change.  I’m glad that my community is at least looking at these issues.

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THE PATH OF THE FUTURE ARE MAKERSPACE DESIGNS FOR OUR SCHOOLS.

Garland Texas has what is perhaps the most modern educational learning facility in the state, if not the nation.  It is the Gilbreath-Reed Technological Center located across the street from Naaman Forest High School  This $7million dollar facility opened its doors two years ago to Junior and Senior high school students in the GISD.  It is a hands-on makerspace where student make things—from food to mechanical equipment.  It is a place with rules and yet no boundaries for the possible.

If you haven’t toured this facility, you really should.  In addition to all the latest tools and equipment such as 3d printers and lathes, this space itself is designed to encourage student collaboration and sharing of ideas.  Little nooks and crannies all over the building are set up with cushy chairs and tables where students can informally gather to discuss ideas.  This is what schools of the future should look like—not square rooms with desks all lined up in a row and filled with outdated textbooks that have been scrubbed by those with political and religious agendas.

Sunday, June 16, 2019