True Reformation

Education Reformation Illustration by Kwang Choi

Education Reformation Blog

In my earlier Education Reformation posts, I wrote about the necessity for complete reformation because the current trends in education are only succeeding in creating a downward cycle. True Reformation has to begin with the end goal in mind. What is the end goal? It should be to create life-long learners, effective communicators, and to have a sense of civic and global duty.

Our current American education model is not producing these qualities, at least not on a grand scale. For every student who loves to learn, who communicates effectively, and who desires to give back to the community, there are ten to twenty students who hate learning, who can’t communicate without dropping the F-bomb at least once in every sentence, and who could care less that there are people truly suffering in the world. The education initiatives forced upon school systems over the past twenty years (a modest time frame) are only making things worse. We need to create a new culture in education. The only way to do that is to start over with the end goal in mind.

If business owners (especially the ones who are funding the No Child Left Behind Act), college professors, teachers, parents, and students all agree that children are learning less and less every year, why is education still on this path? Money has to be redirected towards true reformation, the type of reformation that can produce results as seen in other counties (namely Finland). Education may be driven by money, but it can’t be looked at as a capitalist business. Free-public education isn’t free then. We have sold our children to the highest bidder. Children are the investment and the product and the goods. We don’t have a more precious commodity in this country.

What does true reformation look like? I have been writing about the changes our country has to make for the sake of our current and future generations. I started writing about my ideas a few months ago, without any idea if any of them were feasible. I discovered that many of my ideas are already successful in Finland; of course they are slightly different in practice, but it has encouraged me to push for true reformation in this country. Regardless of our political differences, the U.S. can and should look to Finland for how to restructure education in our country. Look for my post on The Finland Phenomenon.

We want students to drive their own learning, be problem solvers, be collaborators, yet we don’t currently have a system that allows for that type of learning to take place. That’s why I introduced my Never-Give-Up Initiative at the elementary level in a previous post. If students only move up after mastery, rather than by age, all students entering secondary education will have the skills necessary to be successful. Horace Mann said that education is the great equalizer; however, the U.S. has attempted to equalize things that can be easily measured, like age and what needs to be taught and comparing students to each other, which doesn’t make them equal. They just become a number on a continuum. The factory model—one size fits all—has to go away.

Reformation at the secondary level has to change as well. If the U.S. changes the primary level, the secondary model I am proposing will be a natural step in helping students become life-long learners, effective communicators, and civic-minded, global citizens. Look for my posts on my proposals for Middle School (School of Discovery) and High School Reformation.

I will also address the necessary changes we have to make as teachers, as well as some of the current problems with teachers (Teachers’ Roles). Although I hate the present trend of teacher bashing, I am not naive enough to think that all teachers are doing the right thing for the right reasons. There are many teachers who need to change dramatically or move on; I hope to encourage that change or make room for the teachers who are truly in education for the right reasons (The Architecture of the Classroom).

I also have a separate post for parents on how to be a support to their children. Parents can be the biggest change agent at their schools. This post will address some of the irresponsible parenting choices that guarantee failure for their children, as well as what parents can do right now to encourage change at their local school level. I hope to encourage parents to become vocal advocates for their children for the right reasons, not the ridiculous ones.

Another issue I will address is the surprising facts about state standardized tests. As an educator I need to tread carefully, but I hope to encourage parents, students, and teachers to make healthy decisions about state tests.

Finally, I want to suggest some actions we can all make right now for this current generation of students. Experiential Learning is the key. How can we transition from our current education system to a reformed system that gives students skills for the real world? How can we help this lost generation get on the right track?

As always, thank you for reading. I appreciate the support I’ve received for my previous posts in Education Reformation, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well as the others in this series.

10 thoughts on “True Reformation

  1. Hi Pauline! I love your posts about education. They show how passionate and dedicated one who teaches needs to be about the lives,minds and futures they are shaping. It always inspires me to remember the examples I’ve had in my lifetime both in and out of the classroom. And even though I’m not a teacher by vocation, or even a parent for that matter, we are all examples to those coming after us -for the good or for the bad.

    I wanted to share with you a little about the group I work with called Oiada International that does work in Ghana West Africa. We are many things, but education is a central focus. We have a school made up of kids born to my American friends that moved there as well as Ghanaian kids. They are part of a distance learning program through the Akoma Ntoaso Cultural Center. What they do is have cultural exchanges via Telepresence technology with other students all over the world. In fact, tomorrow they are having their first 3-way with Russia and Taiwan. Here is the website Check it out and feel free to ask me any questions.

    Have a great weekend

  2. You bring up some interesting points. I think almost everyone agrees our school system could/should improve. I have also read your “Never Give Up Initiative” post.

    I am not an educator. I don’t feel qualified to give constructive feedback on whether ideas will work or not. On the surface, you make a very compelling argument. What I do know is that you obviously have the knowledge to be a meaningful player in the arena. If I had the power to appoint a national committee to try to solve the education problems in this country, you would certainly be on it. Your ideas need to be heard and considered.

    I hope your local and state leaders have an opportunity to work with you on this important topic.

    1. Thank you, Michele! I would love to work with a committee, but I’m not sure the government is ready for this type of reformation. I hope to build a readership and support, which may start the ball rolling.
      Please, spread the word!

      1. I agree, but if teachers are in education for the right reasons, they should be willing to go through the training. If they aren’t in teaching for the right reasons, they need to leave. Harsh, but a necessary distinction.

  3. I so agree with you, Pauline! And just to piggy back off of what you said, I want to share my two biggest obstacles I face as a teacher, which sometimes seem so overwhelming, I wonder if teaching is for me.

    The first missing piece in the world of education (which is a direct reflection of our American ideals), is the importance of failing to succeed. Some of the best lessons we learn are from failing first, so students should be given the opportunity to fail in order to become successful.

    For example, I have yet to have a student say, “Thank GOD that I was court-ordered to stay in school ’till I was 16. I sooooo learned how important it is to get an education.” (I do on the other hand hear a lot of, “I’m being forced to be here…don’t expect me to do anything”).

    Want to know what else I have heard from students? After turning 18, students return to visit who now realize how “stupid” it was for them to drop out when they were 16. But what can they do now? Unfortunately, by then, they feel it is “too late” for them to get back into a classroom setting, unless they pursue their GED and then go on to take college classes…which few of them (if any) view as a viable option with the price of higher learning nowadays.

    Some may ask, “Well, do you ask them what they plan to do without a high school diploma?” Yeah, I do that. And you know the response? Defiance. Pride. Oh, and the need to distract others around them that I have been trying my hardest to focus for days…weeks, even… You know the kids I’m talking about: they’re intelligent, but don’t have a push for education at home, and would rather look as if they don’t care, than take a risk and try (and possibly fail at something).

    Admittedly, though, the conversations with students like this are quick and sporadic, because I have another 30 students who are also in the classroom with varying degrees and motivations to be in school, so, to be perfectly honest, I have to prioritize where my attention goes. And this leads to the second change: teacher-to-student ratio.

    I don’t need to emphasize the importance of this…I think it is obvious, but I’m not sure how I am supposed to be an effective teacher of reading and writing on a daily basis with around 180 students total and English classes considered “small” if they have 30 kids and “large” when they have 40.

    If you can’t tell, Pauline, I could go on for pages, but will finish on this: I totally agree with you. But what are the next steps? It is overwhelming to think about…

    1. I understand how frustrating it is. I love teaching, but I don’t know how much longer I can do it either if things don’t start getting better. Did you read my synopsis of The Finland Phenomenon yet? If we could just start a few of their techniques at each level, we would feel the relief and see the difference in our students. The number one change that has to happen is smaller class sizes at all levels, especially at a school like yours. Those kids need individualized attention. There is no way one teacher can help all of them; I can’t help all the kids in my classes, and my district is middle class.
      First step, we need to get our voices heard. The louder and stronger we get, the more likely it is they will hear us. That’s why I’m also writing about solutions; I want the government to know that there are better ways to educate our children. We have to choose the better way; we can’t put a band-aid on a broken system.
      Next, we can invite other interested parties into the conversation. Teachers, obviously, but parents have so much power; instead of using it, some are abusing it. It’s ridiculous what they will go to the superintendent about, yet they won’t demand that their children are challenged and taught how to think and become accountable–a slight view into my future post 🙂 Also, students’ voices need to be heard. They have solutions. So many of my ideas come from listening to them–either their direct ideas, or indirectly, through what they didn’t get from their education. If we all get together and demand a better way, we can’t be ignored.
      Thank you for joining the conversation, Casey! Invite others to join. And hang in there! You are one of the best teachers I have ever worked with. What a horrible loss to education that would be!

  4. Great Post and great series! As a businessman, I always ask the question “who is the customer?”. Is it the student, parent, community, employers? There are many stakeholders (those that have a vested interest in the outcome), but there is typically one customer that you are trying to serve.

    I have asked many friends in the education field that question and you would be surprised (maybe not!) how difficult a question it is for them to answer. My take is it’s the student. What would change if everything in the education system was aligned and focused on meeting the needs of your customer, the students? By asking students what they think (as you mentioned in your comments above), you are essentially doing what businesses do all the time – conducting customer research – and using that input to improve the service delivery process.

    Keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you, Vele! There are so many things that you and I do that are the same. I especially saw the similarities in your last post. If we applied the 5-85-10 rule to our teaching staff, we could change the culture of our schools. The remaining teachers would then move towards creating the right lessons for our students’ needs.
      Thanks for joining the conversation!

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