Old-fashioned school system beyond fixing
DEAR DR. FOURNIER: I frequently read with interest your articles. I, too, am involved in education, having attended and taught school and served on a school board for many years. I now am on a college board. I continuously look for solutions to our present problems in education, especially in public schools. I just read your article about Michelle Rhee, where you said she had the "near-impossible" task of fixing the D.C. public school system.
What is your solution?
I did say Rhee faces a near-impossible battle to win, that of "fixing" the D.C. public school system. But our educational system is doing the job that it was created for, that of teaching the minimum knowledge and work ethic needed for the Industrial Era.
The problem is, we are far removed from the Industrial Era, yet we're still teaching that era's ethic: memorization (for rote tasks on an assembly line); following a job description or process to the letter (the company's way of doing it, even though you know a better, quicker or less costly way); how to compete with co-workers to win the best-employee award (obedience award); the sense that once you get a job with a company, you're entitled to it for life so you can coast (called "having paid your dues"); and that you should not question things and leave your solutions and creativity at home (called "don't rock the boat," so you won't be labeled a troublemaker).
Even though the Industrial Era ethic has no way of taking this country forward in this new millennium, the same work ethic is still being beaten into our kids. And they are sending us the urgent message that they are ahead of their teachers and administrators and our politicians though the Internet, Facebook and so much more. They know the world has changed and that what teachers are teaching them is as outdated as the prison-system schools from which this foolish content is disseminated.
For some unexplainable reason, this nation thinks it could fix a broken horse and buggy and then go win a NASCAR race.
While the horse and buggy is an important part of history, it no longer meets the population's need for an effective/efficient mode of transportation. So, you can't fix the horse and buggy so that it will work for today's need. You have to create and build new models. This is the case with our school system — it is outdated, like the horse and buggy.
Unfortunately, dinosaurs still rule in the United States. In other countries they never had the dinosaurs to contend with, so the children's minds are being taught to rule. Cowardice to tear down a horse-and-buggy unionized school system is the root of the evil here, and the solution is to build a new model of transportation, not try and fix the old one.
Write Dr. Yvonne Fournier, Fournier Learning Strategies Inc., 5900 Poplar, Memphis, TN 38119. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.