Tuesday, October 22, 2013


There is a question that sits quietly in the back seat of every conversation about education reform.  Sometimes it gets asked, sometimes it waits.  We all know the question, it's one of the regulars.  

In the middle of "Education reform! We need change!  There is a better way!  Consider the alternatives!" it crosses its legs and waits to be noticed. 


Posed articulately by Mr. Chris Mercogliano in this, one of his first blog posts (after several books in print, mind you):  How do we do it?  Do we Reform or Remodel?

Go read it here now and come back for my response.

I find myself wrestling with the same ever-present question.   – do we try to fix the system or do we do what we can along side it? I suppose, as Chris concluded, it’s cannot come down to either/or thinking. It will have to be both/and.
It’s the same dichotomy that exists between Herbert Kohl’s and John Taylor Gatto’s fundamental philosophical approaches to (public) schooling and education reform. Kohl says work from the inside out; Gatto says blow the whole thing up because it’s doing what it was created to do.
There are so many brave educators who persevere in the public school, struggling against the the well armed grain to give those children some semblance of authentic learning experiences. I hear their stories at the education conferences and I am amazed by their tenacity.  I also hear the stories of all the rest of the attendees (the majority, by far) who have disengaged from the machine and are doing it their way. I am amazed by *their* tenacity, too!  They, too, are pushing against the grain, but from a bolstered position.

Where I live  “alternative education” is a foreign concept (no pun intended) and any attempts reform might look like an echo of what american schools are doing.  Something along the lines of "more accountability" and "higher standards".  
The task of changing the system - or at the very least, diversifying the offerings - seems daunting, even with just a few tens of thousands of learners. Our public schools are in dire straights with almost no funding coming their way (some 95% of the budget goes directly to salaries); private schools are in the business of making money and catering to the existing “get ahead ASAP” paradigm. There seems to be no in between.
My point is: I think our conversation about education reform needs to open up to a both/and thought process.  Inside the public school system because that is where the majority of learners are getting their education. Outside the public school system because it serves as a small but growing model for people to re-evaluate their ideas about schooling and education.
Both. And.

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