In the last 300 years western society has evolved from an agricultural base to an industrial base to a now evolving digital base. Education is still trying to catch up as we continue to aim for that most laudable of aspirations, the conviction that all children can learn and be successful. If we agree on that core value and strip away all of the clamor that is being created by special interests, the single question we need to answer is this: how do we transform our public education system to reach that place where all children learn and grow to become thriving, productive citizens?
Peel away the societal issues, labor relations, and economic concerns; they will always exist. The single focus that can answer this question is our own humanity; meeting the needs of our children regardless of who is their teacher or where their school is located. If children’s needs are met, they can thrive and learn and grow. Children need to be rested, nourished, healthy, safe, secure, loved, supported, challenged and engaged to be successful. We know this from our own experience. When children have these needs met, they flourish. The amount of money spent, the amount of data collected, the amount of technology used are all distractions if these basic requirements are not met for achieving human potential.
Given this single powerful truth for taking education to the next level, what are our concrete next steps? Renegotiating teacher contracts? Changing funding formulas? Year-round schooling? National standards? Business models?
Listen closely to who is speaking and what they are saying; there is a distinct difference between being a stakeholder and being a special interest. The latter acts in their own self-interest, not the best interests of children.
There’s a comical Steven Wright observation: “Why do you turn down the radio when you’re driving lost?” The humor lies in the fact that it hits close to home….there is some truth in the question. You turn down the radio to rid yourself of the noise and distractions on focusing where you need to be. It’s time to turn down the noise and focus on our destination: all children can learn and be successful.
Reposted from the New York Times:
“When people aren’t super busy at work, they are crazy busy exercising, entertaining or taking their kids to Chinese lessons. Or maybe they are insanely busy playing fantasy football, tracing their genealogy or churning their own butter. And if there is ever a still moment for reflective thought — say, while waiting in line at the grocery store or sitting in traffic — out comes the mobile device. So it’s worth noting a study published last month in the journal Science, which shows how far people will go to avoid introspection.
“It’s like we’re all in this addicted family where all this busyness seems normal when it’s really harmful,” said Stephanie Brown, a psychologist in Silicon Valley and the author of “Speed: Facing Our Addiction to Fast and Faster — and Overcoming Our Fear of Slowing Down.” “There’s this widespread belief that thinking and feeling will only slow you down and get in your way, but it’s the opposite.” Suppressing negative feelings only gives them more power, she said, leading to intrusive thoughts, which makes people get even busier to keep them at bay. The constant cognitive strain of evading emotions underlies a range of psychological troubles such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, depression and panic attacks, not to mention a range of addictions.
Studies further suggest that not giving yourself time to reflect impairs your ability to empathize with others. “The more in touch with my own feelings and experiences, the richer and more accurate are my guesses of what passes through another person’s mind,” said Giancarlo Dimaggio, a psychiatrist with the Center for Metacognitive Interpersonal Therapy in Rome, who studies the interplay of self-reflection and empathy. “Feeling what you feel is an ability that atrophies if you don’t use it.” Perhaps that’s why Google offers its employees courses called “Search Inside Yourself” and “Neural Self-Hacking,” which include instruction on mindfulness meditation, where the goal is to recognize and accept inner thoughts and feelings rather than ignore or repress them. It’s in the company’s interest because it frees up employees’ otherwise embattled brain space to intuit end users’ desires and create products to satisfy them.”
See also, “People prefer electric shocks to time alone with thoughts” by Carolyn Y. Johnson of the Boston Globe.