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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Need for a Good Teachers' Strike

Imagine that you became Governor, and you knew absolutely that in two years, there would be a massive, state-wide teachers' strike that would drag on for at least a few months. What would you do to prepare for it?
  • You would see how many other places could take kids, including summer camps, libraries, museums, churches, colleges, programs such as 4-H, and community centers.
  • You would not worry about classes organized strictly by age, but think more in terms of communities, and perhaps interests.
  • You would examine current curricula, and rethink what was critically necessary to teach. For those essential classes, you would post necessary support material online.
  • You would enable greater access to virtual school programs.
  • You would develop and organize the tutor community. And you would look for volunteers.
  • You would re-examine and modernize work-at-home policies, and encourage corporations to share best practices.
  • You would think about how to put students into self-study, project-based approaches where ever possible. Where kids were passionate, such as in chemistry or math, you would provide access to help and tools, but mostly get out of their way.
  • You would rely on parents to be the organizers and guides of their children's education, as well as the children themselves.
Second question. What if you became Governor, and you wanted to reform education, lowering the cost and increasing the value and the authenticity? What would you do to prepare for it? Probably the same things.

Political leaders act to avoid teachers' strikes, as they understand that it could rock an economy. That is why political leaders either over-capitulate to, or now are trying to eradicate, teachers' unions. Both approaches, in my mind, make the situation worse by entrenching the current mono-culture. This may be akin to over-zealous forest fighters putting out every spark, but in the process creating a backlog of deadwood and destroying the natural process of death and rebirth.

Politicians fear teachers' strikes. And so should teachers' unions. But ironically, what we need are some good, long, disruptive teachers' strikes. It may be the best hope for education. And the economy.

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