Define Education Reform

So what is this education reform of which you speak?

It’s a great buzz word, isn’t it? And some people have been great at leveraging it to advance their causes. And when tied to the phrase, “for the children,” arguments become Teflon.

That combination in a hypothetical scenario — ” when I work towards education reform,  I’m doing it for the children” — is untouchable, and not in a good way.

Pardon my cynicism, but I feel 95% of the adults who consciously use the phrase “doing it for the children” are doing everything but that. There are always other motives at play, unfortunately revolving around power and money: who gets to direct the public discourse over education reform, and who’s making money from the initiative.

Getting away from the messiness of doing it for the children, what, exactly does education reform mean? It seems so obvious, right? Education. We know what education is. Reform. We all know what reform is.

But are we talking Head-start programs? Are we talking K-12 education. If we are, that’s a huge space with wildly different needs from top to bottom, start to finish. Are we talking about access to higher education? Is it overall global rankings? Reducing the achievement gap? Literacy? Arts? Sports? Cultural enrichment?

Yes.

Yes? What does yes mean? Simply stating you are for education reform is like saying you are for making sure everyone follows a religion. Are there hundreds of paths from which to choose? Sure. But you and I know — with heavy emphasis on that “know” — which path is the right one.

Exactly. Mine.

And we come back to the first question, what is education reform?

We wonder why there has been so little progress on this front. You have societal issues, cultural issues, socio-economic issues, ideological issues, and of course the mud-pit of political issues with which to contend in trying to find the right path. And right now there are more than a handful of paths that have proven to work in various environments. Kahn Academy. Charter schools. KIPP Schools. Strong PTAs. Private Schools. Parochial Schools. Small Schools. Schools within schools. Every single one of them can provide you ample evidence as to why their system works.

I do not want to take away from the individual successes of any of these noble endeavors. But if they all seem to work, why haven’t they all immediately proliferated throughout the country?

Politicians! Teachers’ Unions! Economics! You name it, they’re at fault. Truly. That’s not being sarcastic. We all have a hand in this.

So, again, let’s get back to the first question. What is education reform? Really. What does that phrase mean to you?

Also published at bent spoon Media.

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