The Puzzle

Is it possible that everyone is right and no one is right? I’ve been asking myself this question quite often lately. When you really stop to listen and read and learn about all of the separate issues that are grabbing headlines in the education reform movement, you can always find people – real human beings – involved who are earnest, well-meaning individuals, truly invested in whatever snake oil they are pedaling.

Snake oil? Now why did I have to go use inflammatory language like that?

Well, if you really stop to listen and read and learn about all of the separate issues that are grabbing headlines in the education reform movement you may not find it difficult to see that none of the proposed solutions has the potential to work for all children across all socio-economic classes within all of the sub-cultural groups we have here in the U.S.

In a recent posting, a blogger named Crazy Crawfish takes time to point out many of the flaws in some of the more well-known solutions. And he started by building a wonderful metaphor about what’s going on here, referring to the pieces of the [education reform] puzzle.

But here’s the key extension of that metaphor he missed: within a puzzle every piece is integral to the complete success, yet alone each piece is hobbled by its own uniqueness, and inadequacy in revealing the complete picture.

Maybe, just maybe, Crazy Crawfish has finally hit on the one metaphor that truly does indicate what’s going on in education reform. No initiative will work by itself, and yet everything is required to complete truly effective education reform.

My readers know that I am a huge advocate of parental involvement when it comes to developing academically successful children. The more I have researched the importance of parental involvement, the more I see the other dependencies that touch effective parental involvement: financial resources, community cohesion, effective school administrations, engaged teachers.

Nothing in this debate can stand alone as the sole cause or the sole remedy. As Crazy Crawfish says in his post, “Right now hundreds and probably thousands of disparate groups [are] polishing their individual pieces of the puzzle.”

And I would argue they are all correct to continue with their pursuits. There’s a place for all of the methods in this movement. This is a democracy, after all, and with the benefits of freedom comes this other messier element of everyone having a voice.

Parent groups. PTAs. Students First. Charter Schools. KIPP. Kahn. The Gates Foundation. Virtual Schools. Teach for America. Fiscal Austerity. The list of players and ideologies goes on and on.

Is it so surprising that there are so many alternatives? Is it surprising given the status of politics in America that there is such division regarding how to manage policy? Is it surprising in this land of look-at-me driven by social media that each one claims to be the only solution? Is it surprising given the fiscal climate and a gap between rich and poor that hasn’t been this great since the Great Depression that some communities feel the fight is futile?

The answers are in front of us, and it is a great puzzle. At what point, however, will we all start to work together to make the parts of the puzzle start to fit?