Josh Grizzelle, Tell Me Again Why Our Education System Is Run By The Government…

Joshua Grizzelle should not feel compelled to say, “I’m not embarrassed to admit I’m a public school teacher.”  Mr. Grizzelle’s video here is another piece that had me pumping my fist and yelling, “YES!!  RIGHT ON!!!  TELL IT LIKE IT IS!!!!  Statements like:

  • “You don’t have to be in a classroom every Monday through Friday to know there’s something wrong with our country.”
  • “As an educator, I’ll work to end mindless politician’s war on science and reason.”
  • “I will fight teacher-hating legislatures who think nothing of cutting public school funding…”
  • Even “Public education made this country strong…”

But then he said this:

  • “…and it (public education) can make her strong again.”

Sorry Josh, I simply can’t agree with that point.  I’ll get to why in just a bit.

A second piece that had me going right up to the last point was a video slideshow here entitled “What if…”, put together by Karl Fisch, an educator who writes a blog called The Fischbowl.  This work is longer than Josh’s PSA but I’ll summarize it as well…

Mr. Fisch lists several statements from a book by Dr. David Thornburg called, “Edutrends 2010: Restructuring, Technology, and the Future of Education.” Starsong Publications, 1992.(Yes, 1992 is right!)  The statements are about the reluctance to accept new technology in education.  Here are a couple examples:

  • “Students today can’t prepare bark to calculate their problems.  They depend on their slates which are more expensive.  What will they do when the slate is dropped and it breaks?  They will be unable to write!”  –  Teacher’s Conference in 1703
  • “Students today depend too much upon ink.  They don’t know how to use a pen knife to sharpen a pencil.  Pen and ink will never replace the pencil.”  – National Association of Teachers in 1907
  • “Ballpoint pens will be the ruin of education in our country.  Students use these devices and then throw them away.  The American values of thrift and frugality are being discarded.  Business and banks will never allow such expensive luxuries.”  – Federal Teachers in 1950

Mr. Fisch goes on to round out the list with statements he’s heard more recently in and around his own career about why people feel new technology has no place in education.  Such as:

  • “You can’t use those calculators on the test.  If I let you do that, you wouldn’t ever learn how to use the tables in the back of the book and use interpolation to figure out your trig ratios.”  – High School Math Teacher in 1980
  • “Why would you ever want the Internet for student use?  It’s just the latest fad – have them use the library.”  – District Employee in 1995
  • “Teachers will never use email.”  – Teacher on a District Committee in 1996
  • “Why are we talking about students having laptops in high school?  I don’t think most parents will even give their kids their old computer, much less buy them a new one.”  – Member of Laptop Committee in 2000
  • “Turn off and put away all Cell Phones, iPods, and Electronic Devices during class!”  – Signs around AHS in Fall 2006

Then he ends with this question:

  • “What If…We’d listened?”

Just like with Josh’s video PSA, I was soooo right with Mr. Fisch until this final slide and question.  I think the appropriate question to ask after viewing these statements from the past THREE CENTURIES is, “What If…We HAD NOT listened?”  Personally, I think far too many administrators, board members, parents, etc. DID listen and DID agree with or at the very least rolled over and went along with these statements at the time.

Why would I think this?

Because Education would not be the last technological frontier if innovation and technology had not been shunned since the 18th Century as evidenced by these statements.

And again, I’m sorry Joshua, but this is where your PSA went south too.  Public education will never make this country strong again because this same atmosphere and attitude toward change is still alive and well.  It is time for educators to stop living in the past.

Look, it’s not like business and banks never adopted the ballpoint pen…the fact is they had likely put them in use by the time the statement above was made in 1950…or shortly there-after…but the person holding education to this standard never went back to check on the status of the ballpoint pen in industry.

For some reason education as an industry seems reluctant or downright afraid to lead.  It would rather lag, significantly, to the detriment of the student, adhering to a 1950s ballpoint pen mentality!

Upon further reflection, to paint the education industry with such broad strokes is inappropriate.  I don’t believe all educators are afraid to lead.  However, those who aren’t afraid are often prevented from leading by those who look at technology as “expensive luxuries” or “extravagant”, those who unfortunately also often control the proverbial purse strings…which no doubt was the case in 1950 as well…

Here is where I believe “the rubber hits the road” …or “the bits hit the network” for all you techies out there…Schools as structured today, both public and private, do not spend their own money.  And as a result, these schools are subject to the opinions and controls of those from whom the money flows, the foundations, the tuition-paying Board member and/or the taxpayer.

What’s the answer?  Maybe it’s time to truly privatize education in America.

For profit businesses spend money to create value in the organization…it’s called “self preservation”…if they don’t do this, they will soon cease to exist.  I have a number of books on my shelves which discuss the best methodologies for measuring the creation of value in business by using many different acronym’ed formulas such as ROI, CFROI, CVA and EVA to name a few…sorry for letting my finance background show, I realize CFROI is a bit beyond the scope of this post but I’d be happy to discuss this with anyone offline.

My point here is that primary and secondary schools do not spend money to create value…they can’t, they aren’t wired that way…there is no connection between the quality of the educational services and the amount of money they receive.  Here in Texas, laws such as the so-called “Robin Hood plan” were enacted to level the playing field according to the law makers…but what it does in reality is move further away from any ability or incentive for schools to create value through quality service offerings and has bred the stifling complacency that exists in public schools today.

Josh, it’s too late to wage war against the teacher-hating legislatures.  As long as schools continue to be run by big government, big government will always win…just as it has for centuries in America.  Political conservatives harp about the need for smaller government but yet none of them seem to be a bit concerned that we have an entire industry (education) run by federal, state and local governments…

Why is this ok?

I do understand that at one point in our history, this structure was a necessity and did lead to, as Joshua indicated, making our country strong.  But little Johnny no longer needs a mammoth US Department of Education, a State Legislation or a local School Board to learn algebra, those organizations are antiquated…a computer, an Internet connection to a virtual teacher and Kahn Academy will do just fine.

Again, it’s time to privatize the American education system.  Let’s do away with the taxes associated with funding schools, put the money back in the pockets of the parents and let them choose the educational provider with the best services available for their students, regardless of any geographical boundaries or limitations.  As I see it, this would put both the responsibility and the authority to create relevant and authentic learning environments back in the hands of educators where it belongs and take it out of the hands of those who practice the 1950s ballpoint pen mentality.

Privatization of education is the only true educational transformation we should be pursuing. And never in the history of education have we had the tools available to us to make this happen.  Embrace technology, hug a computer and empower an educator.

Addendum…

Yes, I read Mr. Fisch related blog and I understand where he was coming from when he put his “What if…” slides together.  And I’m not at all questioning his insight or his position and decision to stand up for the rights of the students to be allowed to function in their world with their devices.  He’s right on.  But the way he framed his last question is a bit askew IMHO, don’t listen to the folks making these statements, listen to the educators.

And Yes, I understand the nature of Joshua Grizzelle’s PSA video and I’m sure he is a passionate educator.  But be certain you are fighting the right fight.  America was founded on the notion that government shouldn’t get in the way of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  But I say when it does get in the way, don’t try to placate it…shove it out of the way!

A hearty “thanks” to both Karl Fisch and Joshua Grizzelle for being on the cutting edge but more importantly for what you do for students, we need a thousand more of each of you!

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About Darryl Loy
I am into all things technology…especially education technology. I am currently Director of Technology for a private school in Dallas Texas…previously 13 years as Associate Head of School for Operations at a private school in Fort Worth Texas.

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