Blog posts which begin like this one make me ill:

As failing socialized education once more is cutting teachers and looking to pour federal tax paid money to save salaries of some of them, why not do something different: cut textbook costs by delivering learning content using mobiles. Roughly speaking, one teacher’s salary of $100,000 could provide 100 students with a smart phone for each and an access plan for each lasting many months.

I am a firm believer that we need to improve all our schools and work to provide more differentiated, customized educational experiences for ALL children, regardless of background or context. We also need to thoughtfully and appropriately embrace  the use of digital media to support those goals. We should NOT, however, believe the pundits in the mainstream media and blogosphere who portray the entire enterprise of public education as a failure which needs to be scrapped. Free public education is a cornerstone of our democracy, economy and culture. We should strive to improve and transform public education, but NOT destroy it.

On these themes, Mike Rose writes the following on page 6 of his 2009 book, “Why School?”

Playing in and out of all the above are our beliefs about public obligation, about what the public school should support. We have been living in a time of disenchantment with public institutions and public programs. At least since the Reagan years, there has a been a sustained and savvy effort by conservative writers and politicians to redefine social responsibility, to shrink it and redirect it toward the private sector. This book’s final chapters affirm a robust notion of the public as embodied in the nation’s central democratic institution, the common public school.

We have a strong tendency in our segmented, siloed world to consider separately social topics that should be considered together. We put into place a testing program without thinking ahead to how it might redefine teaching or about the model of mind that’s implied in it. We also believe that the testing program alone will correct political and bureaucratic stagnation and compensate for the need for teacher development or for the burdens poor kids bring to school.

Remember NCLB was created to discredit schools and define them (and us as public educators) as “failures.” The harmful effects of NCLB continue to seen in most of our public schools today. When bloggers and mainstream media writers claim “socialized education in the United States is failing” we should view that opinion in it’s proper context. That frame or perspective should then guide us to act appropriately in response to the realities in our schools.

Education can and should empower us to act on the world. We should not dismantle public education. We should transform it. To do that, more than handheld mobile devices we need good leaders. We need leaders with vision in our classrooms, in our school and district administrative offices, and in government.

Good leadership matters. It begins with critical and independent thinking. Don’t believe everything you read online or in print. Do your own research and decide for yourself. Is our entire institution of public education in the U.S. a complete failure?

My research findings and life experiences say no.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Ramona St,Palo Alto,United States


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10 Responses to Public education is not failing, but political spin doctors want you to think so

  1. Dave says:

    I agree with you. Too many politicians and pundits claim public education is failing. Yet I see my students go off to top notch colleges and get great careers.

    They’ve learned how to learn, how to think, how to solve problems, how to challenge things. They’ve learned how to be better people and better citizens.

    I see this all around this great country of ours. If public education were failing, could this happen? No.

    Too many people forget about the other factors affecting a student’s success in school: community and neighborhood, parents and home life. Without addressing these things, we can’t address students who fail in school.

    We need leaders in the community, schools, and government who are willing to stand up to the pundits and show them what is working and what we can change. These leaders need to be strong and visionary.

    We also need to let teachers teach. Stop attacking teachers for all of societies ills. Help and support them and realize the tough job they have.

    Let’s work together to fix the problems that do exist instead of making it a battle.

  2. Judy Breck says:

    Sadly, the idealistic vision of the “public” school that has long captured the hopes of many good-hearted people devoted to children has failed many of those children. In our time of rampant public spending, the schools that count on part of that funding are losing out. That makes anyone who cares about the kids in those schools feel sick. Delivering knowledge on mobile devices is a means to save major money — to fill the gaps left by the gushing government money. How schooling is done will be reconfigured by virtual delivery of knowledge. We should be happy about that.

  3. Wesley Fryer says:

    Judy: I definitely agree that we need to move aggressively toward 1:1 learning. What I disagree with is your contention that ALL of public schooling is a failure. That’s an overly-broad generalization which is not only inaccurate, but also suggests that we should dismantle public education. It’s a pillar of our country and is an ideal which needs to be defended. That said, public schools in their current form (the status quo) certainly need to be reformed and transformed. I think many of the ideas you’re sharing on handschooling are laudable. I disagree with your overgeneralization condemning all public ed, however.

  4. Judy Breck says:

    We agree, as you say, on a lot of basics. My experience is likely more negative than yours with public education after 30+ years of trying to help students in some of the worst New York City public high schools. In any event, I would argue that the current economic crisis is usefully giving policy makers strong reasons to examine the workings of public education. I hope we can all keep an open mind about the future of public education in a profoundly changing world. Meanwhile, very upbeat new opportunities such as mobile delivery of knowledge are arriving to connect learners with knowledge itself, and that is a beautiful thing.

  5. Shona says:

    I agree with many point presented. There is a need for transformation. Before we cut teachers salaries in order to give out cell phones we need to analyze what is working. Mobile delivery will not address the needs of all students, because they all do not learn the same. There is a need for a massive brainstorm instead of a finger pointing session. Because like Dave said, there are several students who learn how to learn and think in order to be successful.

  6. Judy Breck says:

    My proposal in the blog post that stared the comments, Shona, was to SAVE teacher salaries by using mobile devices instead of expensive textbooks. There is a lot going on in brainstorming and actual classroom use of mobiles. Here is an example from Ohio:

    This is the info on a smartphone classroom project to be presented at ISTE next week:
    http://center.uoregon.edu/ISTE/2010/program/search_results_details.php?sessionid=48648446

    This is the website of the lead presenter for the ISTE panel, Scott Newcomb, a 4th grade teacher in Ohio:
    http://www.smriders.net/Mobile_Learning/

    Scott contacted me at handschooling.com with this message:
    “We have been involved in a Mobile Learning project for the last two years. We have been using smartphones in the classroom. Every student in our school district from 3rd grade to 6th grade has their own mobile learning device! We will be adding seventh grade next year. Our goal is to have a mobile learning device in every students’ hand from 3rd grade to 12th grade!”

    ‘Feel free to share the site with others. We need to get the word out on mobile learning!”

  7. James Russell says:

    I, as a teacher, must disagree. I see it failing everywhere I go. Students are getting dumber. Your assumption sites your life experience which is limited and your ideas of success can be biased. Your research is not sited, an unacademic, uneducated action.

    “Free public education is a cornerstone of our democracy, economy and culture.” Site it. “Education can and should empower us to act on the world.” What is learned is not always correct. Look at the oil spill. Look at the economy. Both failed under the assumption that people (in power) knew what they were doing. Is it a stretch that perhaps we don’t know what we (society) are doing with education?

    “Good leadership matters. It begins with critical and independent thinking. Don’t believe everything you read online or in print. Do your own research and decide for yourself. Is our entire institution of public education in the U.S. a complete failure?”

    I absolutely agree with this. This is what is missing in public, no, all education today. We are teaching toward a test that is only meant to cover the most basic, low level academic imperatives. Yet we teach the standards as if they are difficult, the end of all knowledge. I believe (citing my own thoughts here; no research to back me up) people who think the public education system has failed at some level recognize this. And so should we as teachers. To them, public education has dumbed down my generation (Millennials) and probably the two preceding.

    Also perhaps they see the dollar amount attached to public education and what the outcome is. As a taxpayer, it pisses me off. We pay the price for Dom and get Boone’s Farm. And a whole lot of Boone’s Farm gets you drunk without the satisfaction/luxury of the Dom. (Rabbit chaser: Yes, real education is a luxury today. Competition has made it so. We now compete with more countries, which is a great thing. Everyone in the world benefits.) We must give our taxpayers their money’s worth. We OWE it to them. To say that the dollar amount doesn’t matter, that “it’s our future” is a non sequitor.

    I have a copy of an early 1940s Social Studies text for fifth graders. Ninety percent (bloviating) of 12th graders could not answer these questions. And such is the failure of public education.

  8. James Russell says:

    As unacademic as me misspelling cited.

  9. Kevin says:

    I agree with you that the education system in America is a big success. I think China should learn a lot from the America in this regard. I a young painter from China, specializing in creating different kinds of oil paintings. My website is: http://www.oilpaintingcentre.com Frankly speaking, I hate the education system of China very much, which is examination-oriented and kill the creativity of students at their early ages. The government has been endeavering in changing this situation for many years, but the unfortunate fact is that the situation hasn’t been changed basically so far. A country’s futre depends on its education system. Wish the education system of China can be improved in a near future.
    Kevin,
    From China

  10. Bob Collier says:

    Judy Breck is not the only person I’ve read who regards the public school system as having failed totally. Just about anybody you ask in the rapidly growing homeschooling movement will tell you the same.

    On the other hand, it’s been said that as long as parents need free daycare there will always be a public school system, so I don’t think it’s going to be dismantled any time soon and it would make sense to do something positive with it if possible.

    I think it is possible but it may benefit only those who Robert Kiyosaki calls, in his book If You Want To Be Rich & Happy Don’t Go To School, “the favored five per cent” – those students who are looked after because their academic results reflect well on their teachers and school. That’s where the shining examples of what schools can achieve come from. My daughter was one of the “favored five per cent”. The other 95% of her contemporaries had to be content with going through the mill and making the best of it, or not. That’s something that hasn’t changed since I went to school in the 1950s and 60s. Is it likely that it’s going to change to any substantial degree in 2010 and the years ahead when viable educational alternatives are more readily available to the masses than at any time in human history?

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