Thursday, November 30, 2017

the assumption of stupidity

I have been reading the guidelines written for school board members. Apart from those guidelines are told we need charter schools as an official state sponsored means to shake things up. (Because it is widely agreed that public education is not measuring up to expectations).  In the meantime, local school boards and schools where some meaningful shaking up could be most easily accomplished, are strictly held to the dotted i and crossed t. Evidently, among governmental policy makers, shaking things up is OK if done in a corporate board room, or by a major private foundation but not OK if done on the local level where it is probably true that people care about real kids.

After 13 years of schooling or more people are well trained to look beyond themselves and their own common sense for “expertise.”

This following is a description of the duties and responsibilities of a local school board in Arkansas.
Education as a State and Local Partnership:
Maintaining and operating a school district is, in a very real sense, a partnership between the state as parent and the local school board as offspring (or child?) Throughout the nation, this arrangement has proved its merits: It keeps schools close to the people, stimulates wholesome and creative flexibility within schools, allows for adaptability to local needs, and promotes working toward equitable opportunity without imposing uniformity that could stifle creativity and experimentation.
In my view, the constraints placed upon school boards, allowing them only to manage the financial concerns of the district, and whose only accepted duty is to hire and fire the superintendent is the cause of the situation than then provides justification for the charter school movement, which then takes public education out of the control of local school boards and puts it in corporate hands (that then do a very poor job of it). The key phrase above states that the local board is the "offspring" of the state.

Malcolm Gladwell and others have written about the 10,000 hour rule that proposes that it takes 10,000 hours to develop a particular level of expertise, whether in music, the  crafts or computer programming as was the case with Bill Gates. By the time students have been sequestered from the real world outside for over 10,000 hours of instruction, most will have become good at nothing. Nada, Zip, etc. unless they have been lucky enough to have become engaged in school sponsored athletics or in a school that breaks all the rules that must be adhered to in most public schools. Is it any surprise that when it comes to comparing high school basket ball games to conference night we find that parents show up for one and not the other?

I call for greater control at the much more local level over such things as curriculum development and measure of school success, allowing schools to be more flexibly responsible to the needs of each and every child. The Parent/child relationship should become more like when your child goes off to College… In which a responsible state steps back and asks only of local boards, “What can we do to help?” Instead, we have a educational system that assumes the local folks are unqualified to make educational decisions that affect the lives of their own kids.

Make, fix, and create...


  1. Anonymous9:53 PM

    I agree with your comment a " responsible state steps back and asks only of local boards, “What can we do to help?"". Yes local control is best. I believe that your comments against charter schools are not well stated or well founded in many situations. I teach "glorified shop" aka engineering at a locally run non corporate charter school in Idaho. Most charter schools in Idaho are local grass roots movements to improve education. There are a few cooperate ran charter school in Idaho that fall below the performance of the local charter schools. The charter schools I have been involved with have always outperformed public schools within the local attendance zones.

  2. Anonymous3:21 AM

    Engagement in school and local networks - to involve children in a real world. That is an important task for parents. I agree.
    In my own neibourhood I observe different structures: People (kids and parents) often use their homes mainly as a place to sleep.
    Most of their activities (jobs, sports, workshops, stores, recreation areas) are far away: Always a distance away, always in need to date others; few room for spontaneity, rare occasions to meet your next door neighbour.
    So it's hard to realize the importance of local connections - and their member's needs.


  3. What I have read of charter schools is that many (if not most)are for profit corporate endeavors that compete with and reduce the resources available to public schools. Idaho may have a better track record than other states but the statistics I've seen are not favorable overall.

    The point I would make is that if public schools were allowed to meet the needs of their communities rather than the needs and demands of the state boards of education, they might be flexible enough to actually do a better job of preparing kids for for real life and keep them engaged in learning. If public schools were allowed flexibility in designing curriculum to fit their own students needs, there would be no need for charter schools, as the reason for their existence has been described as providing the flexibility to meet student learning needs.

    All this is about control and who is trusted to have it. The attitude of the State and federal boards of education has been that local school boards are not to be trusted with matters of education, and the assessment of the learning needs of their own kids, and they would rather give that control and trust to for profit schemes than trust local school boards.

  4. My point (perhaps ineptly made) is that if local school boards were trusted to take a hand in things beyond the budget, and received some training in educational matters to do so, the charter schools movement would be unnecessary.

    Finland beats the pants off American education by following the following strategy. 1. Place your teachers in high regard. 2. Train them well to do their jobs. 3. Trust them to do well what they have been well trained to do.

    In the US it appears educational policy makers have an opposite strategy. 1. Demean the teaching profession. 2. Focus teacher education on classroom control and management, so that you can crowd as many students into a classroom as you are legally allowed. 3. Demand top down allegiance to measurement and standards that have very little to do with the important factors in student growth.

    I will gladly and readily admit that many Charter Schools are claimed as having failed because they've not met the artificial measures established by the policy makers and standardized testing industry. But then they've often been established under the rationale of raising test scores. Charter schools that have other purposes in mind may have a greater chance of success.