I have noticed a fair amount of vitriol spewing from the education blogosphere (and whatever other forms of media still exist today, if any) in the past few months, most of which has centered on the idea of technology (led for the most part by an energetic private sector) infiltrating the classroom (and to be fair, I can’t say I’ve helped the matter). Much of this disdain on either side seems to have bubbled to the surface during the Chicago teacher’s strike and has been slow to die down. Some believe technology is being forcibly jammed down teachers’ throats by entrepreneurs trying to make a buck; others feel there is an out-an-out assault on teachers as reformists try to replace them with computers. These views likely have some merit, though I’d argue are a bit extreme.
As far as I can tell, people are not fed up with teachers individually, but instead with the system in which they operate. I’m not saying this is necessarily a just view, but simply the reality of perception. I see a parallel to this in Congress. Political pundits love to reference the fact that the approval rating for Congress in the United States is fluctuating somewhere around 10%. What they often leave out is that reelection rates in Congress have never fallen below 80%. In other words, American voters do not dislike the work of individuals in Congress (or at least in their own district); instead, they are fed up with how the overall body of Congress is operating.
Similarly, there are very few people that disprove of the work teachers do (save the occasional outlier). We all love teachers and we want them to have every opportunity available to maximize their effectiveness. This may mean that they need to adjust their teaching styles to fit the options now at their disposal. An adaptive math program may not be the solution to all of our learning troubles, but it may be the answer to a few of them. It’s hard to argue that the world (especially the professional world) is not a vastly different place than it was even a decade ago. As such, education must remain fluid and adaptive, and schools must be willing to face the reality that pro-reformers are on their side. Similarly, those aggressively pushing reform should be more sensitive to the realities of a slow-moving K-12 system (as opposed to the lightning fast Higher Ed).
The two sides of the reform debate are really so close to each other in desired outcome that it’s unfortunate when progress is stagnated through fighting. We all recognize the supreme importance of a proper education to our individuals as well as our communities. We all know the dangers of ignorance. We are all dedicating our energy to furthering the cause of education across the globe (to combat threats posed in health, war, climate, and a host of other dangers illuminated by general stupidity). If we can spend more of that energy helping boost each other’s goals instead of tearing down supposed threats, we will accomplish far more for our young students, and the next generation of workers will thrive, lifting our economy and society along with it.
The opinions expressed in Reimagining K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.