Will school reform talk bring action?

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January 13, 2010 :: Permalink

Aloha ~
Will school reform talk bring action? Action, yes ... will it be effective? NO ...

The problem with public education is us - each of us - and our democratic style of government, which is defined by compromise. Our public education system is a patchwork of overlapping policies, rules and procedures. If a particular fix is applied to one group, another group likely sues. The measure is then watered down to a one-size-fits-all approach.

This is why private and some charter schools have demonstrated success. They have been able to establish a niche in the market. They attract the students they can best reach and teach.

The more we air this debate in the public, the more we are forced to compromise, and the more we ensure our public schools will fit our Keiki's needs generally but not specifically. And students taught in this mass-transit approach lose motivation very quickly.

Yet I agree fully with maxcat who writes, too many students and too many parents or guardians do not value education ...

I taught various grade levels as well as university during my teaching stint. Talking with my mother, a career first grade teacher, about her decision to remain at this level, she told me she only wanted to teach first or second grade because, in her opinion, our Keiki are ruined by the system by the time they reach third grade.

Public school students lose their natural curiosity to learn by this time ... and if asked, most will tell you school is boring. Students reinforce this attitude with each other as it is culturally cool to hate school. Yet parents and the public are cynical as well. How do we expect our Keiki to remain focused when ALL their adult role models constantly scream about our failing system?

I didn't always enjoy school. I had a particularly poor teacher in 7th grade social studies. She was bad - and the district was forced to deal with her shortcomings years later. Yet I was 12-years-old, immature and found it far more interesting to hang out in the back of the room with the cool dudes rather than do the hard work in class.

When grades came out I earned a D. Both my parents were upset but I told them the teacher sucked; she was horrible; didn't explain things well; didn't give us exciting work, etc. You see, I had grown up around educators and knew good from poor teachers.

While this last part was true (she was a poor teacher), my parents - particularly my father - did not buy any of my excuses. My parents escorted me to a parent/teacher conference. They found out I was goofing off in the back and not putting my heart into the class.

I was given an ultimatum ... I could walk around for the rest of my life with my father's HUGE size 16 boot up my A$$ or I could get to work. My parents didn't care about my opinion that I thought the class was boring.

Even though I hated the class every day for the remainder of the year I pulled my grade up to a B. And how ironic today ... but I went on to do my PhD work in social studies!

If we examine Hawai'i's public schools we must realize we will never create a perfect system for 170,000+ Keiki. Yet even with all the flaws, it is good enough if parents and students put their all into getting a good education.

I am reminded of a favorite poem from the greatest of teachers, John Wooden. I don't believe he wrote it but he sure made sure we knew it.

You wonder how they do it and you look to see the knack,
You watch the foot in action, or the shoulder, or the back,
But when you spot the answer where the higher glamors lurk,
You'll find in moving higher up the laurel covered spire,
That the most of it is practice and the rest of it is work.

And from William Butler Yeats, Education is not the filling of a pail, but rather the lighting of a fire.

Race to the Top grants did not light my fire ... it was the fear of my father's boot that taught me to practice and work.