Educational Transformation

I have to admit, after reading Thomas Sowell’s editorial this morning I am a bit flabbergasted. Its not that I disagree with him, I am just concerned with his voice. Let me share a couple of his comments with you. “Schools were once thought of as places where a society’s knowledge and experience were passed on to the younger generation.” Ok, no problem there. Sowell then argues that John Dewey has changed the purpose of education. “Dewey saw the role of the teacher, not as a transmitter of a society’s culture to the young, but as an agent of change – someone strategically placed with the opportunity to condition students to want a different kind of society.” Whether this is what Dewey meant or not I am not prepared to argue, but I am not too sure what Sowell is identifying as a problem is really an issue.

Sowell continues pontificating by demonstrating how educators are teaching students to be politically correct, that everything about America is bad, and that non-western societies are more virtuous. Sowell ends the editorial with the example of how educators caused the French to fall to the German invasion during World War II.

I get that Sowell is an editorialist who will make controversial comments to generate discussion, I also admire Sowell for his Libertarian ideals, but I don’t agree with this progression of thought. Painting the picture of the educator as a person with horns undermining western values is incorrect. However, I must say it has got me thinking about the role of an educator in society.

In this morning’s WSJ there was another article discussing the role of accreditation organizations, while raising the question about who really is in control of our college campuses. This too got me thinking. Hank Brown argues that accreditation organizations are too powerful, and are getting too involved in the governance of educational institutions. Brown states that these entities should focus on educational quality, and not how the college is governed.

Brown gives a couple of examples of how this occurs. He starts with accreditorial sanctions against the University of Virginia, which was attempting to remove its President. Brown states, “Anyone who knows American history, and regrettably few students do, would realize that Jefferson would be mighty upset to learn that a bunch of federally empowered bureaucrats are overstepping their authority and interfering with the internal governance of his university.” Having just read “Jefferson,” I would agree with this statement.

He then finishes his examples with the declining academic performance of our colleges. Brown states, “When it comes to the accreditors real assignment – ensuring educational quality – the record is dismal.” In a 2003 report only 31% of college graduates were proficient in reading. Academic rigor has declined, analytical abilities are limited, while 43% of college students are getting A’s. Brown then proposes, “Is it any wonder that employers consistently report that college graduates lack the skills and knowledge needed for America to compete in the global workforce?”

After reading this, we could just raise our collective hands and give up, but that would not be courageous. I work with a group of educators that are concerned about these issues. The administrators of our school are forward thinkers who see what is happening in our society and are positioning the college for success. The educators I work with are providing classes rich with content, while rigorous in difficulty. We have decided to teach our students how to think. We recognize how important this is.

In my estimation my purpose as an educator is to accurately reflect theory, and its historical development, but also challenge that theory for relevancy. Being an educator is not just transmitting knowledge it is being an agent of change. So I disagree with Sowell. Being an educator means helping students research detail, remember detail, analyze detail, but more importantly articulate an accurate and critical assessment of the detail.

Outside of being a parent, being an educator is the most important job in our nation. Our future depends on it.

And that is my thought for the day!

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