Everyone Wants to Reinvent Schooling By: Anthony Pellegrino Part Two

Posted on Jul 20 1999

Since the last century when public schools were started in the United States, the educational system has been on a roller coaster ride. The history of the development of education in the United States is a fascinating study. One can see the work of many political leaders and some education philosophers such as John Dewey who tried to formulate policies that would improve education for the masses. Let us discuss some of the recent innovations in an effort to better comprehend current efforts to reinventing schooling.

Several examples of past attempts to reinvent schooling are:

A. by emulating management and budgeting techniques in business or government during the 1960s and early 1970s when some reformers were entranced by new management techniques developed by corporations, the militaryindustrial complex, university experts, and government agencies.

B. by contracting instruction to innovators who claimed that private corporations could do a better job of teaching basics than the public schools could and make a profit in the process.C. by employing technology that could, advocates said, transform instruction.

D. by modeling the incentives and career paths of teachers on an ideology of competition and hierarchy and a practice of unequal rewards borrowed from other organizations.

In examining the educational system today we discover that only remnants remain of the above experiments. Studying why the above ideas did not achieve the expectations can be explained in that the innovators lacked a sophisticated understanding of the school as an institution or insight into the culture of teachers.

They tended to treat ” schools as though they were made of silly putty, easily molded. But the worst mistake the reformers made and still continue to make today is almost a complete lack of understanding of the everyday lives of teachers, their practices, beliefs, and sources of frustration and satisfaction.

Schools are not factories, although some of them look like factories. Children are not passive raw materials. Like their students, teachers are active agents, not docile workers on a pedagogical assembly line. Once the classroom door is shut, most teachers retain considerable autonomy to instruct the children as they see fit. if any real change is to be made in the public schools. classroom teachers are the ones that will most effectuate those changes successfully.

As mentioned previously, many Americans relish technological solutions to the problems of learning. One of the first inventions to invade the classrooms was in 1841. In the words of an admirer of that era: ” The inventor or introducer of the system deserves to be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not among the greatest benefactors of mankind.” The “system” was the blackboard which is the only reform that has stayed in the classrooms as an necessry tool in teaching.

So has it been with exponents of educational radio, film, television, programmed learning and now computers. All of these inventions predicated pedagogical Nirvanas that have not happened yet. The most recent one is the rage about computers in the classroom. Unless we understand why the previous ones did not succeed, computers may well go the same demise. We’ll discuss computers in the classroom at another time.

Unless outsiders who seek to reinvent schools through business methods, instructional systems, and technology come to see the world through the teachers’ eyes, they will never make inroads to improvement of education. Teachers have been rarely consulted, though it is mainly their task to make it work. One has to understand that teachers are the core!

Everyone of the innovators failed to realize that the true reward of teaching has to be seeing pupils grow intellectually and socially. Something they lacked in their reform programs.

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