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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

No wonder we can't evolve schools...

I was listening to this Commonwealth Club podcast on Global Corporate Social Responsibility:

http://www.commonwealthclub.org/events/archive/podcast/global-corporate-social-responsibility-panel-31411

You can also just download the MP3 here: http://audio.commonwealthclub.org/audio/podcast/cc_20110314_mlf_corporateresponsibility.mp3

Skip ahead to 14:44, the introductory comments by Mark Edmunds, Vice Chairman and Regional Managing Partner, Deloitte LLP.  Listen for a little over two minutes.  It simply struck me as a crisp presentation of many wrong memes around education reform today.

Just a few:
  • 15:25: The goal of school (what he calls "education") is to create a "college-going culture". 
"Going to college" is a terrible and lazy metric; the goal of creating a "college-going culture" will almost inevitably result in less students going to college, and colleges being less good for those that do. (See my post Education Evolution - Some Wrong and Right Questions)  Traditional colleges will only get better through credible alternatives.
  • 15:40 Many high school students in Oakland, California don't go to college because they have parents who did not go to college.  
This comfortable and easy view from most school system employees - that parents are the problem when it comes to education - is a meme that must be stomped out as vigorously as racism and sexism.  To believe that institution care more about children than their own parents is both prevalent and disastrous.  All teachers have their story, probably true, of some incompetent parent.  But to allow this generalization is toxic, and risks become self-fulfilling.
  • 16:00  Bill Gates represents someone of sterling character.  
First, I totally get how school systems everywhere have become Gates sycophants.  But to look at his behavior over the decades (Microsoft was the "evil" in Google's motto "Do no evil.") as exemplary is problematic to say the least.  Did Microsoft play fairly during the '80's?
There is so much more.
  • To use the poorest schools as a place for research and development for all schools is intellectually problematic. (This is the only environment where a 5% success rate would be hailed as a great social victory.)  
  • I will leave it to the listener to form their own view of character education as an output of school programs.  How would you like to be in an Oakland school and hear a guest lecture from a Deloitte partner telling you to "play fair" and "respect the rules of the game"?    
  • Finally, I found a correlation between school systems that talk about 21st Century Skills with their fund raising efforts, not their nascent capabilities in actually delivering them.
The number of these "superficially positive but toxic" statements in such a short burst (less than three minutes) represents why public education needs an unschooling perspective to evolve beyond the local maximum (false peak) on which it is stuck today.

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