Thoughts on education, publishing, and other intellectual titillations – by Marie Brown, Consulting Editorial Project Director
***The following comments, views, and opinions are solely those of Marie Brown, and do not necessarily reflect those of Westchester Publishing Services, its management, and staff.***
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“Never Again!” — the rallying cry of the March for Our Lives protesters on March 24, 2018
This past month’s education-related news has been dominated by the aftermath of the horrific murders of 17 students and school personnel at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. Reeling from the trauma of the tragedy, but followed closely by their anger and outrage, the students of the high school spoke convincingly of their commitment to see an end to this kind of violence in schools and to pass laws for stricter gun control throughout the nation. Their resolve has grown into a movement—affecting our country as a whole. On March 14th, one month after the massacre in Parkland, tens of thousands of students, teachers, and other adults, walked out of their classrooms and schools to peacefully protest the tragedy of a month ago. Perhaps people thought that that would be the end of it—these protests were initiated by students after all. What staying power would they have? Well, astoundingly, on March 24th, hundreds of thousands continued the protest throughout the streets of America—demanding more restrictive gun laws, especially the sale of assault weapons. The protests were peaceful and powerful.
MY TAKE (loaded with my biases)
I am overwhelmed by the students’ vigor and fervor and brilliant organizing skills to generate this national effort to support the control of gun violence in our society. They have inspired our entire country—and perhaps the whole world. And these students are teenagers– passionate, articulate, focused, and confident. Where did these kids come from? Were they there all along? The stereotype we’ve had of teenagers—lazy, social-media addicts, video-playing zombies, academic slouches, etc., is forever changed: We were so wrong!! They have changed the world already and will change the course of our history and country once they can vote and run for public office.
We—parents, teachers, and all who contribute to raising children—should feel proud. We have done something right to create such youngsters. For once, in a long while, I am hopeful for the future.
• R.I.P. Linda Brown, who, at 9-years of age, was at the center of the landmark 1954 United States Court ruling that struck down racial segregation in schools in the Brown v. Board of Education, died on Sunday, March 25th. Her courage had led the way for future students to bravely face injustice and discrimination, and yes, school violence.
• Apple hosted an education-themed event at Chicago’s Lane Tech College Prep School on March 27th to introduce new innovations to their education product line to compete with Google and Microsoft. A full report will be included in next month’s (May) blog.
• I often read and hear that Common Core is dead, so I was surprised to learn that the final set of common academic- content standards for mathematics and English/language arts was just released after months of review and revisions. They have been endorsed by the AFT, NEA, and NCTM and more than 25 state boards of education (at this posting).
In a keynote address to the American Enterprise Institute, a leading conservative think tank, U.S. Education Secretary, Betsy De Vos, told the audience that national education reform efforts, including No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Every Student Succeeds have not worked as hoped. And she is not alone in that assessment.
Bill and Melinda Gates, who have given more than $700 million to further school improvement, have announced that they are ending their effort to overhaul teacher evaluation systems, determining that these efforts were failing to generate positive results. Likewise, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan had a similar disappointment in the $100 million they donated to improve Newark Public Schools.
IN MY OPINION
Since I entered the education field in the 1960s, I have witnessed many new innovative, even revolutionary, approaches to curriculum development, instructional practices, learning theories, etc. I, too, have witnessed the disappointing results of these initiatives. It is my personal and strong opinion that these large-scale, overarching programs and approaches miss the mark. The answer to school improvement and student success is THE TEACHER in the classroom. We have all heard stories or experienced ourselves the power and influence of an excellent teacher. I know of teachers in impoverished areas who are hugely successful with little or no funding support for books or supplies. I know of a first-grade teacher who had 50 (!) students in her class where every one of them learned to read. It is the intelligence, competence, and creativity of the teacher that is the key. Not everyone is born with these capabilities, but they can be nurtured and developed. We need to recruit teachers from the TOP of their graduating class. And we must give them a competitive salary to attract them. We need to foster the respect and dignity of this noble and crucial profession. And we need to weed out those who do not make the grade. Not everyone is “cut-out” to be a doctor; not everyone is “cut-out” to be a teacher. We need the best to do the best for our children.
DON’T FORGET TO WEAR YOUR “PI” PANTS
Congress has just approved a bill calling for March 14th to be recognized as “National Pi Day” to celebrate “Pi” which is the relationship between the diameter of a circle (its width) and its circumference (the distance around the circle). The hope is that this resolution will emphasize the importance of math and science, at a time when there’s widespread worry about U.S. students’ performance in those subjects. OK, you could also have a slice of apple pie to celebrate the day.