Public schools have not only a right, but an obligation, to look every gift horse squarely in the mouth. Because it's the children they are responsible for who are riding.
Will difficult student conversations go awry and get muddled? All the time. But that's the precise reason why we ought to be holding them now, with our young citizens. One of the central purposes of public education is developing core understandings of democracy and hey---no time like the present for that.
Schools and teachers are the objects of commerce and policy, not co-creators or idea-generators or genuine partners. We get "gifts" from business, if we are producing what they need.
When it comes to education, we've certainly allowed all kinds of predators and vandals to chip away at America's best idea: a completely free, high-quality public education for every child. No matter what they bring to the table.
Where do good teachers come from? How do we pick promising candidates out of the crowd? What is the secret to putting the right people in the classroom?
When you strip all peer interactions out of learning, you're left with bare facts and theorems and instructions. Or, in competency-based learning, a screen, the next quiz and maybe, if you're lucky, a digital badge.
The policy goal here is de-professionalizing teaching, establishing it once and for all as a short-term, entry-level technical job designed to attract a revolving door of "community-minded" candidates, who will work diligently for cheap, then get out because they can't support a family or buy a home on a teacher's salary.
The self-esteem egg comes before the integrity, courage and patriotism chicken, not to mention academic skills and knowledge. It's hard for students to build character and resilience when they have no self-concept. It's hard for them to learn, when they don't trust themselves or believe in their own capacity.
We have genuinely reached a tipping point, one where we're struggling to get young people to go into teaching as professional career (as opposed to two-year adventure before law school). Our state legislators are openly declaring that teaching is now a short-term technical job, not a career, and thus public school educators don't really need a stable state pension. That's not only a war on individual teachers, but a war on teaching itself.
There seems to be a social movement (or at least a book) suggesting that success in a professional career is not enough, that valedictorians are merely conformists, hard workers, even suck-ups, not the kinds of disruptive movers and shakers who change the world. But--should they be disrupters?