To the Editor:
In response to Fernando M. Reimers’ Commentary “Preparing Students for the Flat World” (Oct. 8, 2008):
In my experience, it is not students or schools that impede progress toward innovations in education, but parents. For the most part, parents don’t want a school that strives for global competencies. I speak from experience, having served two years as the principal of a charter high school emphasizing science, math, and engineering. The school offered online courses, special classes, and the opportunity to earn college credit, all of which required students—or should I say parents?—to commit academic time. What parents wanted, however, was another comprehensive high school with rich music and sports programs.
Even though we had teachers and staff members eager to make change happen, parents impeded our progress. For educators seeking to organize their schools around a theme, such as global education, I recommend fostering unity by:
• Meeting with parents and listening to their concerns;
• Ensuring that the new direction is right for the school, and not simply satisfying the wishes of a few;
• Making sure students are aware that the curriculum will be tough, and that additional homework may be involved;
• Preparing parents and students, if most of the elective classwork will be given online; and
• Maintaining core subjects taught in person by committed teachers.
It is important that we make global education a priority, but we do need to offer teachers and parents more training, so that they can understand it better. Changing attitudes, values, and skills will go a long way toward building global awareness, and communication is the key. Educators must help parents see that it is the ability to integrate across seemingly unconnected fields that will prepare students to compete in a flat world.
Stephen W. Zsiray Jr.
A version of this article appeared in the November 12, 2008 edition of Education Week as Parents, Not Schools, Impede Innovation