Yelling Won't Fix Our Schools
by Cynthia Lehman
Mike Madigan (“Paladino: The Politics of Agitation,” Letters to AV, April 11) is correct; agitation can be a powerful tool. However, agitation based on fragile knowledge and without ideas for effective solutions will give us more of the same, a lack of results and lots of bad feeling.
The problems with our schools are deeply complicated. I’m really weary of both reformers and administrators who suggest simple solutions. There are no simple solutions. And everyone, including Mr. Paladino, must accept some measure of responsibility for the problems in our schools, from those who pretend not to see the terrible inequalities that exist in our schools, to those who champion anti-intellectualism, to those who have enough money to send their kids to private schools but wouldn’t spend a cent to create solid technical programs to prepare students for the jobs that are available in their communities, to those who believe that high stakes testing provides any measure of education and those who refuse to acknowledge that the system is broken across our nation and requires radical change.
This is where the problem really rests—the need for radical change. Change is hard, and too many stakeholders want to hang on to what is familiar and what is working for them. The result is that our children get short-changed over and over again. We have agitators, we have experts, we have resistance to change, we have apathy, but we don’t have a clear direction based on what we have learned about learning, and about what makes children want to learn. Our education departments are hampered by what some bureaucrat has decided is the best way to teach teachers. Almost any new teacher will tell you that s/he was not prepared for the challenges of a real classroom, and about 50 percent of them leave the profession sometime in the five years after they graduate. Yet, few bureaucrats view this as a problem or offer any solutions.
I’ll be happy to vote for an agitator, but that agitator has to be someone who truly understands the depth of the problem and has a solid working knowledge of possible solutions. Just yelling won’t accomplish much and it certainly won’t provide our children with a positive model of how to work effectively for change.
- Cynthia Lehman, Buffalo
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