Public schools thrive on innovation.
In nearly every classroom around the country you’ll find teachers discovering new ways to reach students and foster skills, understanding and creativity.
But if you pan out to the macro level, the overwhelming majority of innovations aren’t organic. They’re imposed on us by bureaucrats and functionaries from outside the classroom:
For the last two decades, these are the kinds of innovations that have been forced on public schools at gun point.
And each and every one of them is pure bullshit.
They are corporate schemes written by the wealthy to cash in on education dollars for themselves. Big business hands them out to their paid political lapdogs to push through our state and federal legislatures to become laws and policies the rest of us have to obey.
They have nothing to do with helping students learn. Their purpose is to boost profits.
Just look at the difference between the ways the word innovation is defined.
Merriam Webster says the word signifies “the introduction of something new” or “a new idea, method, or device: Novelty.”
But BusinessDictionary.com finds a tellingly distinct meaning:
“The process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay.”
It is that second business-friendly definition that has dominated our schools and narrowed our view until the only concept of advancement and revolution has been centered exclusively on the profit principle.
It is time to put a stop to all of it.
No more useless iPads, apps, software and so-called “personalized” educational technologies that do little more than allow marketers to steal student data and profit off of a new form of school where everything can be provided by technology at a cost while the quality of services takes a nosedive. No more technology for technology’s sake instead of using it as a tool to promote authentic learning.
No more laughable charter and voucher schools where education budgets become slush funds for corporations who don’t have to provide the same standard of services to students or the community. No more operating without transparency or accountability.
No more outmoded and disproven standardized tests. No more canned academic standards that strip classroom educators of autonomy while reducing effective teaching behind a smoke screen of test scores that merely conflate the economic situation students live in with their academic abilities. No more corporations creating bogus multiple choice assessments whose only utility is to demonstrate how many more test prep materials we need to buy from the same company or industry.
It’s too bad we’re not interested in that FIRST definition of innovation, or at least innovation tied with the motive of providing quality education for children.
If we were interested in that kind of real, authentic school reform, we would focus on things that really matter. And chief among those would be one main thing, one major innovation that would be easy to accomplish but could change the fabric of our schools from top to bottom – people.
After all, that is what our public schools need the most – more people.
Have you walked into a public school lately? Peak your head into the faculty room. It’s like snatching a glance of the flying Dutchman. There are plenty of students, but at the front of the overcrowded classrooms, you’ll find a skeleton crew.
Today’s public schools employ 250,000 fewer people than they did before the recession of 2008–09. Meanwhile enrollment has increased by 800,000 students. So if we want today’s children to have not better but just the same quality of services kids received in this country only a decade ago, we’d need to hire almost 400,000 more teachers!
Instead, our children are packed into classes of 25, 30 even 40 students!
And the solution is really pretty simple – people not apps. Human beings willing and able to get the job done.
If we were fighting a war, we’d find ways to increase the number of soldiers in our military. Well, this is a war on ignorance – so we need real folks to get in the trenches and win the battle.
We need teachers, counselors, aides and administrators promoted from within and not functionaries from some think tank’s management program.
We need more people with masters or even more advanced teaching degrees – not business students with a three-week crash course in education under their belts who are willing to teach for a few years before becoming a self-professed expert and then writing education policy in the halls of government.
We need people from the community taking a leadership role deciding how our schools should be run, not simply appointing corporate lackeys to these positions at charter or voucher schools and narrowing down the only choices parents have to “Take It” or “Leave It.”
We need people. Real live people who can come into our schools and do the actual work with students.
And that means money. It means cutting the crap boondoggles to corporations and spending on flesh and blood reform.
It means fixing the funding inequality at the heart of nearly every public school in the country. No more spending tens or hundreds of thousands on wealthy students and merely hundreds on poor ones. No more dilapidated school buildings for the poor and palaces for the rich. No more socialistic pulling together for the wealthy and rugged individualism for the poor.
THIS is how you solve our education crisis – a crisis not caused by falling test scores or failing schools. A crisis caused by vulture capitalists preying on our educational institutions and our students as if they were some bloated carcass on the side of the road and not our best hope for the future.
It’s really that simple.
It’s a matter of ideology based on empiricism not “common sense” Laissez–faire maxims of “This is how we’ve always done it.”
We’ve been trying so-called corporate education reform for decades now – through Bush and Obama and now Trump. It doesn’t work.
It’s time we stopped making excuses for failing policies and got back to the best thing that works.
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