To the Editor:
In his recent Commentary, Matt Winkle suggests that authorities at the local level, as in school boards, be imbued with greater decisionmaking power to enable them to do more than simply fine-tune state and federal demands (“That’s Not the Way It Works in Education,” Sept. 29, 2010). I hope that his notion of local empowerment also extends to his district’s teachers, since the most significant “point of impact” in schooling is the relationship between student and teacher, not between the school board and the district.
Mr. Winkle notes his disdain for what he terms “education-speak.” This is a tired cliché. If you don’t understand us, just ask, as we would with you. Professional education, as a technical field of study, has its own particular language. Would you expect your physician to speak to the hospital board in monosyllables? Why, then, would you expect anything less from your colleagues in education?
While I’m on the subject of language, most educators do not think of public schooling as an “industry,” and I have to wonder how such a mechanistic perspective could lead to many humane outcomes for the students in Mr. Winkle’s district. Perhaps a conclusion he overlooked is that school board hopefuls need to do their homework and learn as much as they can about contemporary schooling before accepting their appointments.
I fear that Mr. Winkle’s willingness to “push against the brick walls” will be likely to generate more of the uninformed faddism discussed by Mike Schmoker on the facing page of the same issue (“When Pedagogic Fads Trump Priorities”). Public education is no place for hobbyists.
The writer is a professor of education at California State University, Los Angeles.
A version of this article appeared in the October 20, 2010 edition of Education Week as Teachers, Not Boards Are ‘Point of Impact’