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What Truths Do You Hold to be Self-Evident About Education?

Chris Lehmann: The Great American Teach-In: Listening to Students.

Sam Chaltain: What's Your Declaration of Education?.

What truths do you hold to be self-evident about education? Please join me and many other education stakeholders in exploring the state of US education during the Great American Teach-In (, scheduled to take place on May 10th. 

During this event, we will be examining what it means to be educated in the 21st century and formulating solutions to improve education. I believe that in order to do this thoughtfully, we must look within ourselves to identify and articulate our fundamental beliefs about the purpose of education. Participants will be encouraged to draft their own Declarations of Education in some format and to share these ideas with the world. 

The following questions were developed to help participants reflect and over the next few weeks, I think I'll tackle these in blog posts here in preparation for writing my own Declaration. I see this as sort of an cathartic exercise similar to NPR's This I Believe series. I hope you'll think about these as well and take the time to create your own vision of education.

1. When and where do I learn best?
2. What does an ideal learning environment look like?
3. How closely do our current places of learning resemble our ideal learning environment?
4. What barriers to learning/growth exist within our current environments?
5. What will we do to make our current learning environments more perfect places to work and learn?

I also am thinking about how to involve my own kids, ages 8 and 12, as I think they have opinions on this matter. I'd like to help them better articulate their feelings about school, and to think metacognitively about their learning in order to advocate for themselves. 

Let's change the current tone with education and focus on what works, what needs to change, and how we can do it together. 

Pondering Waiting for Superman Etc.

I wrote an extensive post on all the current ed reform hype, and lost it somehow. I'll attempt to collect my thoughts on this again in a much more succinct and less eloquent manner!

My main points were:

I'm concerned about fevered pitch of anti-teacher rhetoric in the media today. The American public needs to critically examine the current ed reform hype generated by the release of  Waiting for Superman. Specifically, citizens should look at:

  • The buzz  around Superman, particularly Oprah's spin  and subsequent initiatives which don't give much credence to teachers
  • The recent mayoral election in Washington DC and the work of DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee
  • The decision by the LA Times to publish value-added data on LAUSD teachers. (Make sure to read the extensive comments in this blog post.)

The education landscape is a complex picture, and more standardized testing, firing of teachers, and charter schools will not alone solve our current crisis.       

  • Yes, bad teachers exist and should be removed from classrooms. However, our current teaching force needs to be inspired  and prepared to meet today's challenges.
  • We're facing a teacher shortage with baby boomers retiring over the course of the next few years and we must not throw the baby out with the bath water.
  • While some teachers are born great, it takes time and professional development for most teachers to evolve into truly effective ones. 
  • Teachers must stand up and make sure their stories (positive and negative) are told. Clearly, the American public is only getting one side of the story. 
  • Teachers also must advocate for developmental and pedagogical best practices. We are at risk for ignoring research.
  • Parents need to be a part of this formula for success. In Singapore, parents feel immense amount of pressure to do what it takes to make their children successful and their system is considered one of the most successful in the world.
  • Administrators do not seem to be the focus of current reform rhetoric. We must examine the role of school leadership in motivating and engaging school communities.
  • We need positive messaging to encourage all stakeholders to work together towards the common goal of doing what's best for children. Effective change will not happen with divided factions. 

A voice for reason in all of this has been Diane Ravitch, a prolific writer, professor and historian of education. A former appointee to the Department of Education under Bush I, she has reversed her views on what truly works in education. Read her latest book, follow her on Twitter, and check out this interview featuring her. Also, consider signing this petition for her to appear on Oprah (a complete long shot, but my hope is that her work is brought to Oprah's attention). I want to be Diane when I grow up. :) 

Please share additional readings on these topics via the comments here in my blog.  Articles and posts  that have caught my attention on this are: