This column is the opinion of the author and does not portray the views of AllOnGeorgia.
It seems everyone is kneeling and protesting all things today. Much of the kneeling is before our nation’s flag and anthem to bring awareness to police brutality. In many instances, this rare, but upsetting occurrence should cause concern. However, good intentions to equalize education outcomes have created far brutal effects for the public. Come to think of it; there are lots of things we could kneel in protest in the name of equality, but I would never kneel in front of the flag or national anthem. Could we ever imagine people believing that there could ever be enough freedom and justice? Once that becomes an overriding goal, people will never get enough of it.
This real-life scenario of such toxic equality is depicted by an animated character in the movie, The Incredibles, where a boy wants to have superpowers like his idol, Mr. Incredible. Years later, now a supervillain, he creates gadgets that make him equal to Mr. Incredible. He has distorted what it means to have superpowers, by unveiling his plans to mass-produce weaponry replicating crime-fighting superpowers saying, “When everyone is super, no one will be.” I guess the same can be applied to public education. When everyone is educated equally, no one will be. There is nothing wrong with creating equal opportunity for all, but where I think we miss the boat is we assume everyone will be equal at achieving their educational goals – this factory mentality no longer works.
Just look at our public education system of the past 20 years. Much of the changes are politically driven – so much that it has created more inequality by trying to make sure the nation’s bottom one-third of students are equal in achievement. This effort attempting to make everyone equal is tearing the system apart while ruining any effectiveness of a good education. All of us should kneel, on our own time, in protest for that alone.
Myth – Digital learning makes students learn faster
Inequalities in education are more profound today than they have ever been. Politicians, corporations, and some educators continue to bring us the latest fads convincing us it will “close the achievement gap.” The latest is the push for technology in the classroom. The rush to shove learning through digital text/methods creates a false perception that reading/learning through digital methods creates the notion that students are learning faster. That is far from reality, and this just creates more inequalities in education – particularly among low-income students. All students need interaction with their teacher as a person. Learning is a social process and requires critical engaging cognitive involvement. So many policymakers have been seduced into thinking more digital learning and testing can be used to create strong equal outcomes to achieve complex educational outcomes ….Therefore, I kneel.
Myth – Accountability fixes the effects of poverty
Poverty has long been a challenge in public education, and it’s getting worse – mainly because we are not equipping people to think critically. Instead, we continue the same unrealistic accountability system, created and condoned, by both political parties. A good education, with high parental involvement, usually changes lives for the better. Yet, it remains an elusive goal for millions of students of all ages. The current system creates more separation in the “achievement gap” amongst all classes of students. Yes, accountability systems help define if schools are doing well, but we have an accountability system that does not cater to the priorities for true learning ….Therefore, I kneel.
Myth – Common education fixes further inequalities
Plateaus in education gains continue, and in some cases, they are falling well below expectations. Before the 1970’s, America had a solid education system. By the 1990’s, the gaps between black and white students changed dramatically. Although debatable, some would argue it was more government interference, and others claim it was more poverty. I do not disagree with either, but what I will contend is that American schools have limited and narrowed its curriculum for the sake of being common. Common standards, common tests, common teacher evaluations, and common schools. America is not commonplace, so why should we expect our diverse students, and how they learn, to be common? We expect our teachers to differentiate instruction, yet we measure our diverse students and diverse schools with a stick of commonality which promotes failure …. Therefore, I kneel.
The U.S. continues to hover around the international mean on reading and science literacy; however, math is a small bright spot as the U.S. has made some gains, but not significant enough. The Common Core Standards intended to race America to the top, but it has not equalized achievement outcomes. Research shows that states that sprinted to adopt Common Core, Georgia included, only show that the standards had modest gains on national tests. However, what did not change drastically were the effects on low-income students; the very thing Common Core was supposed to equalize. High poverty schools have not been able to align instructional materials, and it has created more inequality …. Therefore, I kneel.
Myth – Schools can fix mental health problems
More young people are entering our schools with major issues surrounding mental health. Our schools are not equipped to deal with these changes. Why are children entering school with so many issues? I have asked a variety of mental health professionals, and many of them point to either long-term use of medications, such as Ritalin; use of social media and early exposure to screens (iPads, etc); depression and drug use. One answer that did not surprise me was that many adolescent’s students today do not have a feeling of “school connectedness.” School and family connectedness are the primary drivers to feel protected and safe to learn.
So what is the goal of school? Education, experimentation, or healthcare resources. Your one-stop shop for a balanced life. Where are the parents? We have gotten far off track to what education’s goal should be for individual upward mobility. We should look no further than the breakdown of the family. Instead, chaos ensues to make all things equal for the sake of making all things equal. Student creativity, exploration, and inquiry cannot be contained in a Pandora’s box (standardized tests, common standards, and common teaching methods) of all things equal. It is making it worse …. Therefore, I kneel.
Making all things equal requires a consistent redistribution of resources and people while limiting the talents of others. This is causing chaos, causes jealousy, malcontent, and creates further burdens on our schools and leadership. When everyone is common, no one will be.