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Stuff I Used to Think

Deborah Meier is wise. No other word for it. In her January webpage post, she's musing on Richard Elmore's "I Used to Think...And Now..." meme. (Favorite from Elmore: I used to think that policy was the solution. And now I think that policy is the problem.)

Once again, Deborah Meier made me reflect deeply. My own "used-tos:"

  • I used to think that a college degree was the leg up to success in life, an accomplishment that made you a better person, a stronger contributor. I thought it mattered less where you went to college than what you did with that education. Now, I understand that as a first-generation graduate of Regional State U, and a Baby Boomer, I was simply part of "credential creep."
  • I used to think teaching was an honored and creative position, autonomous practice wrapped around a hard center of traditional certainties--core curriculum, bricks and mortar classrooms. Now I see that center shifting and malleable, while "experts" are bent on codifying teaching.
  • I used to think equity was something that could be accomplished, or at least improved, by money and resources. I thought Americans cared deeply about educational justice for children--saw equity as a critical civic goal, the rising tide lifting all boats. Now, I see these foundational ideas dismantled daily in the media, often obscured by noble-sounding rhetoric.
  • I used to think the mission of public schooling was giving every child a fair crack at a good life and citizenship--the blessings of liberty. Most Americans now believe schools are our economic training ground; if economic indicators are bleak, schools share the blame. What do I think? Schools have become places to sort kids into the proper bins and apply scientifically based interventions. Credentialing mechanisms.
  • I used to think that technology in education meant new stuff. Today, ask a teacher about technology in education and the conversation has a 90% chance of turning to the cool things you can do with Web 2.0 tools or Smart Boards. What I believe: great shifts in communication, media literacy and global access will wash over schools in the next two decades and render most traditional school practice--grades, classrooms, tracking, textbooks-- unnecessary. Existing School World will be utterly unprepared. Worse, these changes will not be driven by equity of opportunity or instructional innovation. They will be driven by commerce.
  • I used to think that a free, quality public education for all children--the common school-- was America's best idea, its manifestation of representative democracy. This is the one idea I am not yet ready to relinquish.
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