Friday, November 17, 2017

Twelve Years, So Much Time, So Little Progress - A Postmortem

After twelve years on the Board I decided not to run again.  With the recent election I'm no longer a Region 19 Board member but I've been offered the opportunity to continue participating on the EO Smith High School Building Committee as a citizen participant. Having attended all of the previous architectural studies and proposals for the school is some institutional knowledge that I'd like to keep alive for at least the short term.

I also plan on keeping the blog alive. I haven't written much lately but when I get the urge, I get the urge.

For twelve years I spent my energies in advocating for the students, the taxpayers, and the soul of the institution. And not blindly.  *Everyone* associated with public education has an agenda. To the degree that I could contribute to good things that were accomplished, it was to the credit of a coalition of the willing and they know who they are.

The establishment of the Reynolds, Big Picture inspired satellite program, the realization of an artificial turf sports field (I had advocated for all the fields to been renovated), the establishment of "Bring Your Own Device" internet access, and a few more Board stretch goals were largely the work of Bruce Silva, Lou DeLoreto, and a handful of Board members who rolled up their sleeves.

I mention these things because two of the three mentioned are NOT the way the system typically works.  In fact the system is hardwired to self-insulate itself from anything innovative or different.

This bears some explanation because most of the critical rhetoric of public schools will condemn the institution for being dysfunctional.   In my experience that simply isn't true. Public education is a highly evolved set of self-serving ecosystems that complement each other's comfort zone so as to eliminate every and all outside disruptive influence. Rather than being dysfunctional, these ecosystems are highly refined and ruthlessly efficient.

Obvious and self-evident as it sounds, schools should prepare students for a life of learning, constant change and reexamination of the status quo. And public school teachers and administrators exercise a vernacular of words and phrases that sound exactly as if this is what they do. But the fact of the matter is that they cannot do for students what they cannot do for themselves.  One of the last things an administrator said to me at my last meeting was, "This place isn't built for change."

The teacher's Unions, the administrative unions, the local Boards of Education, the State Board of Education, the commercial education interests, the lobbyists, the status quo parents of college track students, and the armies of sub-professional employees all act in the interest of the system. The system being a paper mill that certifies public school seat time. The system prefers being a monopoly.

Is there anyone out there who would not roll their eyes when someone mentions that "a fox should not be allowed to guard the henhouse"? Yet in education, most School Boards are populated by former teachers, teachers from a district away, vested interests, government unionists, and  so on. School Boards negotiate personnel contracts, curriculum, and much more.  Board members who don't fit that profile are considered incompetent outsiders. You're expected to be a fox to know a fox.

These days I think that public school alternatives may be the only thing that can save humanity.  The public schools need competition.

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