Much has transpired in the last few days dealing with our educational system and on the bottom line, teachers and teaching. Many people have written comments and have been video taped for news bites about what they think is wrong with our public schools. I'm sure you have witnessed much of the hysterics of education reform.
Let's see now, first there was the fanfare of the opening of the movie, "Waiting for Superman." No, I have not seen it and as an academic, I shall refrain from commenting upon it until I do. Then there is the TIME edition that just came out (September 20, 2010) with the title, "What Makes A School Great?" and a number of articles detailing happenings in the public schools. Before you can catch your breath on all this, the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) started an education forum leading off with a substantive interview with President Obama giving us his thoughts on why we need to improve our public schools.
Leading up to all this Oprah had a lead in for the movie, "Waiting for Superman" and had Bill Gates there as well and they gave a million dollars each to a number of schools who are doing well. There is something here I don't understand--wouldn't you want to give money to schools that are NOT doing well? I hope someone can explain this to me.
I haven't listed all the op-ed pieces in the national newspapers that have been written in the past few days but there are a slew of them. But still, not much from the teachers. Brief findings seem to be that Charter schools are not all doing as well as we were once told and that where they are doing well, many have a waiting list for children to get in. Can we duplicate the good ones? I don't have data yet to suggest one way or the other. And I have heard nothing recently on what religious and private schools are doing--what is their graduation rate?
Besides the push for more charter schools I've heard mentioned several times including the President that we need longer school days and longer school years. The President said that our (U.S.) public schools are shorter then in the European schools. I would like to see the data on this one as my inclination is that the European schools let out earlier and have a shorter school year than we do. However, they also have other educational institutions such as music schools, art schools, science and cultural classes that take over after school goes home for the day Finland discharges its students after they have had a hot lunch. Again we are having a problem comparing American Public Schools with the European schools because of a lack of definition of terms.
I have also added to this potpourri of educational stuff my putting aside for the moment my reading of John Dewey's Democracy and Education and taking up two other education research readings. The first is Living and Learning with New Media. It is a research report on a number of studies on youth (age 8 to 30 with the majority of the studies intent on youth from 13 to 18 years old) and the interaction of the youth with New Media (the researchers did not want to use the term, digital media, which is explained in the report). Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury--it is so refreshing to read a report where they first describe what the research was about and then the definition of terms and why they used the terms that they did. Oh my I like academic writing when it is done well. So far I feel this report is going to be a major study in the field of education. It is dealing with social media that the children and young adults are using both for learning and for recreation. And from what I can tell, we're not using it much as yet in the public schools. I wonder how much we're using "new media" in the private schools. Difficult to find out.
My second read in a book entitled, The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age by Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg (2010). I think the two reports are crossed pollinated but I will let you know as I read through the two reports. I do see some of the same names quoted in both readings.
If I have a complaint with my Kindle it is that I have difficulty getting publication dates, authors, and other citation information. And although I dearly enjoy having footnotes or endnotes, the Kindle does not make for an easy read of those items. Because you can change the size of the print, therefore, page numbers are not given--instead percent of the reading that you have done is supplied instead. Makes for sloppy citation work on my part and I apologize to the reader. I'll have to go back to school to learn how to do up to date citation work dealing with social media such as Twitter, etc.
The one thing that seems to be in the spotlight of all this recent discussion is that it focuses in on the student, the learner, our children and the future leaders of this country. That can't be bad now, can it? Will we make the public schools an essential part of our culture? I hope so. I know John Dewey would say that the this country depends upon a good school system. Our schools can get better--we teachers want that.
Finally a bit of icing on the cake so to speak but I've received several e-mails making comments as well to some of what I've recently written. From teachers they have corrected and encouraged me. Thank you for your wisdom. And from one past student of mine, a delightful e-mail detailing her accounts in education. What a joy.
Thank you all you teachers out there who continue on.... teaching our children. You are a wonder.