April 8, 2010

Running to Stand Still...

I absolutely love the term "running to stand still" which is the title of a U2 song from "The Joshua Tree" album (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDKV0ekjIj0). I say it to my wife whenever we are at the airport and as soon as the announcement to board comes some people immediately jump up or "hurry" to be 1st in line.  This annoys me to no end.  ESPECIALLY when the person or persons in question are seated in row 10 and takes 5 minutes to put their stuff in the overhead bin clogging up the process!

In education...Many critics of the Obama Administration and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are saying and feeling the same annoyance in regards to the competition for the unprecedented millions being granted to states for education funding known as the "Race to the Top" funds.  Sec. Duncan and the Department of Education (DOE) have reviewed the first set of applications and granted Tennessee and Delaware the first "awards."  The critique on both sides of the aisle surround the idea that education can be (or is seen as) a "competition."  Many see this philosophical transformation as the beginning of the end of public education as we know it.  I'm sorry to say, we've already reached that conclusion about five/six years ago when we started converting large comprehensive schools into smaller parts en masse across the country. Regardless of your position surrounding No Child Left Behind (NCLB) one thing is abundantly clear, change is here.  When it comes to education and reforming the current system, we are constantly running to stand still - whether it be in continually leaving children behind or in concerning ourselves with whose ox will be gored (a political term for someone "losing" the debate).

I hear people who do not want people (namely children) to "lose" in this critical "competition" for funds, but the question is what process could we create in which there would be no "losers?"  Let me be clear (like Obama), I am in no way saying that we should continue to neglect schools and students who have been left even further behind by the current incarnation of education legislation, NCLB and the increased demands on testing, testing, testing. If we are truly invested in meaningful reform from an honest standpoint, we have to acknowledge that in this country there are always winners and losers. 

The problems lie when one group or class of people are continually the losers or continually neglected - whether systemically, by choice or by other means.  I am still uncertain whether or not I believe the rising tide lifts all boats analogy currently in vogue with the Administration, but one thing I do know is that (as one of my former principals always said) we can not continue to do the same thing and expect different results.

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