Skip to main content

Education Needs Transformation, But So Does Everything But The Kitchen Sink

     For years, I have raged against the many limits of our traditional education system and our inability to truly reform, or even transform into something better or amazing.   Whether it’s the pursuit of real world projects, better technology, or more rationale policies, education has always seemed, to me, to be out of step and ultimately behind the innovations and progress going on in the real world. 

     Naturally, this would not be a difficult thing to prove or demonstrate everyday in most of our schools in this country.  We continue to put our students through a system that was designed decades ago with expectations, skills, activities and systems that are outdated and ineffective.

      A few weeks ago, I had an epiphany.  Sadly, it’s really a relatively simple one, but significant to me nonetheless.  After my daily annihilation of our educational system, I realized that we are capable of greatness and higher quality in all that we do, but rarely, if ever, seem to be able to fully realize it in any capacity.

      Take energy for example.  We now have high quality technology allowing us to use solar energy as one of our primary energy sources.  But do we?  Of course we don’t.  Sure, we have small percentages of homes, businesses and industries that are taking advantage of solar energy.  But as a culture, we continue to build new homes, schools, government structures, and corporate buildings without solar energy systems installed. 

Image result for future of energy

     Indeed, I was fortunate enough as an educational leader to open a new, high tech high school in 2008.  But can you imagine that it was built without solar?  Sure, our district could have put solar in afterwards as an addition.  But, here, right in California, we built a $70 million school (small by most standards) without solar energy.  Indeed, it was against state regulations to build a school with solar.  We could only add solar later.  Shouldn’t it be the opposite?  In other words, we should not be able to build any school, new building or home without solar.  We should mandate solar vs. mandate avoiding it.

     I realized that we do this in all facets of our lives. In addition to solar energy or other alternate forms of energy, we have the technology today to have electric cars, or at least hybrid cars that get great gas mileage.  Do we make either of these the standard?  Again, of course not. 

     We relegate these to small, extreme sectors of our transportation culture.  We dream of something different and continually tell ourselves things like “maybe in five years, or maybe 10 years from now.”

     Think about our food and eating habits in our culture.  One again, we now have the ability and the knowledge to produce high quality, nutritious food.  But do we?  No, we choose the short-term advantages (cost, ease) and trade them away for the long-terms rewards.

      How about medical care?  Again, our nation has the technology and ability to deliver high quality health care to all.  But again, we don’t.  Instead of focusing on preventative measures and being proactive, we relegate all of our health care to emergency care and walk-in clinics – or reactive care.  Instead of investing in everything from early childhood nutrition to body scans for early disease detection, we take our standard route in our culture.  We take the cheapest, easiest or most short-term approach – usually in order to save money – only to postpone that that cost to later at much greater implications in terms of money, health, wellness and success.

      Think about our schools again for a minute.  We have all the science in the world to know that all students would perform better and ultimately learn more if we had smaller classes, better technology for all, more equipment and better access to the real world.  But we don’t pursue this direction.  In addition to not wanting to change, we cannot get past the short-term implications (money, investing, technology, pedagogy) in order to gain those aforementioned long-term results.

      So, where do we go from here?  To me, as a nation or culture, we have to decide what we want.  Do we want to settle for mediocrity or go for amazing?  Will amazing be something that only exists in small, unique sub groups of our society and enjoyed by only a few who are brave enough, independent enough and fortunate enough to figure it all out?

     It’s difficult to live in a nation that has such educational potential, but deploys a system that delivers such a sub-standard product.  We all know that we could do better.  But as we look at all our large systems – energy, transportation, food and health care – we realize that it’s really a larger cultural issue at play.  We have to move from short-term to long-term.  By the way, dozens of other countries in Asia and Western Europe have figured this out.  We possess much more creativity, innovation and ingenuity that any of them, but have yet to apply these to transforming our education, energy, transportation, food or health care systems for the better.

     I will not stop fighting for better (meaning different and more relevant) schools for our nation’s students.  However, I will also realize that real change may never occur unless we address our culture deficiencies that keep greatness at bay.

(images courtesy of foter)



Popular posts from this blog

Evolutionary Education - 5 Things That Could Be Extinct Soon

It has often been uttered, that “only the fittest survive.” But when it comes to education, it seems things that might not even be that fit have continued to survive. However, just like in living species through time - dinosaurs, sabre tooth tigers and the wooly mammoth just to name a few - even things that have lived on for a long time eventually go extinct. So, with that in mind, it seems educational evolution is occurring too and extinction might be inevitable for a variety of standard educational pedagogy, tools and practices.
Textbooks/Single Source Curriculum: (this includes ebook textbooks too). Regardless of whether they are digital or not, depending on and surviving on one text as the foundational source of information and context - regardless of course, age group and purpose - seems almost prehistoric at this point. Information changes daily and resources are born every minute on line. Anyone doing serious academic work…

An Open Letter of Apology to the Class of 2018

Graduation is a natural and important time to reflect. It’s important for the graduates, but it’s also important for the rest of us. Our society has very few rites of passage more heralded that high school graduation. So, with yet another graduation season upon us, allow me the indulgence to reflect once again.

     For previous graduation seasons, reflections included the following: students we did and didn’t recognize, how we bombarded our graduates with rules and regulations vs. relationships and many other musings. This year, for the class of 2018, I offer you an Open Letter of Apology. That’s right. I’m sorry. Truth is that I have not worked directly with high school students since the class of 2014. I served previous classes from 2014 back for about 25 years or so. And although I didn’t serve you directly class of 2018, I have, behind the scenes, still been rooting for you and attempting to be your tireless champion.
     First, I’d like to tell you how impressed I am with …

If We're Banning Phones, We Won't Connect Our Students To The Future

For those of us that follow the news, especially education news, we don’t have to wait very long for an educator, or educators, to give us the excuse for a blog post. This week’s winner goes to the principal and staff at Korematsu Middle School in California’s East Bay Area.
     They were recently featured, and apparently heralded, by an article in Ed Source ( for their recent compliance and control upgrade that bans students from using their cell phones at lunch and during their free time.
     According to principal Matthew Burnham, they tried to let the 7th and 8th grade students use their cell phones last year during these times and it was, according to them, an abysmal failure. The school claims that due to the students being “glued” to their cell phones, no one was talking and interacting with one another. And after watching the movie “Screenagers” and drinking from that proverbial firehose of biased information, this school was trying to …