Education: “The Sky is Falling” Part 1

OMG!!!

We hear a lot about the education system being broken or ripe for disruption. Ripe for disruption literally means technologically ripe because some people in technology seem to think technology will save education from itself although they have never stepped foot in the classroom as an actual teacher and seem to know very little about what actually happens in an everyday classroom.  I have also noticed the ones with the loudest voices, deepest pocketbooks and policy makers in the education space, seem to be lacking in actual education experience, attended private school and largely send their own children to private schools.  Yet they are the ones driving public education policy.  It’s the equivalent to putting individuals on a corporate board to drive corporate policy with no experience or background in business or in that particular space.

The education system is not broken nor is it in desperate need of repair or disruption.  It’s flawed, certainly.   But show me any system that’s perfect?  Really, show me a perfect system.   The system might be slow to adapt or change, but why is that a bad thing?  We rush into so much these days and then often end up backtracking (and wasting a lot of money…think recent iPad debacle in LA and NC) because we should have stopped and reflected, defined and delineated before we took that first step.  But instead, lock step in fear of what we can’t even define, we forge ahead into the unknown with no clear path and no clear idea of exactly what the problem is we are trying to resolve.

It’s another perfect example of how we just ride a wave of sensationalism without any context or clarity these days.  I see this in my students and how can I fault them, what example would I hold up and ask them to emulate?  We all do it.   We react instead of stopping and thinking about something and being judiciously proactive after we have put some real thought and insight into problems and solutions, causes and effects.

As I delve more and more into this space apparently there are 2 major “problems” with the education system: 1) It’s failing and 2) It’s too expensive (though this largely applies to higher education).  Apparently, and this is just my interpretation of the constant noise around this space, the K-12 system is failing because we are so far behind everyone else in test scores.  The higher education system isn’t failing yet according to these “experts”, but it’s right behind the k-12 space and has grown way too expensive.  In ride the saviors of both systems.  Test developers (k-12) and MOOC’s (higher education).

Let’s tackle the k-12 systems first.  If you ask someone how is the US public education system failing, they will largely tell you about test scores and how we have fallen so far behind everyone else internationally.  So here is a little context for you.  I hate to break it to you folks.  The US has never been number 1 in test scores and scores have actually improved over the past decade.  We aren’t failing; we have actually improved our standing.  However, you would never know this by reading any popular media.  By just relying on media reports (which is largely what we do) you would think the world was ending and our children will suffer the dire consequences of this failing system. I was planning on dazzling my two loyal readers here with a barrage of statistics that would make me look really intelligent and would obviously solidify my point on this matter.  After having worked through the various reports on this subject however, I can understand why we sensationalize.  Those reports are tedious to say the least.  What I can do is provide links to the reports for you so you can take the time to wade through them yourself.

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2013/03/18%20brown%20center%20loveless/2013%20brown%20center%20report%20web

http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/reports/2012/2/brown%20center/0216_brown_education_loveless.pdf

Now these reports do not in any way say there is no room for improvement.  There obviously is and we should take it seriously.  However, the idea that our education system is “failing” is really not supported by this data.

So what is the real problem?  Is there even a problem at all?  Well I will get to that after I discuss higher education in the next post.

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Tiffany Reiss

Passionate educator, entrepreneur and health promoter.