Monthly Archive for December, 2007

Obstructing Techniques Foil Education Questions

[Continuing to add to the list of Obstacles that prevent education responsiveness and reform, I attach my letter to the Editor published in the North Shore News, July 29, 1999.]

Dear Sir:

Parents have been moaning for decades about the unresponsive education system. They are so frustrated that in fact they are often more eager to “graduate” than their kids! 

The fact that now a politician is moaning (“Education system is unresponsive” July 16) shows just how much of a closed shop it is. Students complain, but get nowhere (“Teachers should know their subject”. June 30) and citizens want accountability (“Take more care with school funds.” July 14).

 The school system seems to be run for the convenience of the operators, not the customers. Even conscientious teachers, I hear, dare not rock the boat.

 My forty years of involvement shows the system uses these cagey responses to criticism:
  1. Freeze – Ignore, evade, or generally give the silent treatment.
  2. Pander – Isolate the complainer and co-opt the new-found “darling” into the system.
  3. Delay – Insist on due process, proper channels, and chains of command.
  4. Grandstand – The ultimate delaying tactic is to stage an inquiry or public hearing.
  5. Disempower and Mystify – Make parents feel inadequate and students feel juvenile. Stress that only professionals know best.
  6. Hijack – State in no uncertain terms that democracy is at work. Trustees are elected from the public to look after the general interest. Forget that trustees are the mouthpieces for the system: petty politicians using the system as a stepping stone for higher political aspirations. They are useful democratic window-dressing.
 There are many theories about why the system is so defensive and impenetrable. It would take a book to try and sort out the excuses and the agendas at play.

Whatever….I do know that any system which is said to have a 40% failure rate and which spins off numerous side industries such as math and phonics remediation programs probably does have something to hide.

I think this counter-productive, wasteful, anti-family, government monopoly is long over-due for radical change. Calling for more parent, politician or student involvement is not going to do it. More alternatives and loosening the hoops for starting independent schools might give some relief.

Tunya Audain


Obstacles to Education Reform

“We can whenever, and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need, in order to do this. Whether we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.” (Dr. Ron Edmonds, Harvard, 1978)

 It is 30 years ago that the Effective Schools Movement was born with the speech by Dr. Edmonds: “Some Schools Work and More Can”. 

Much is known about what works and what doesn’t. However, there is no ONE cookie-cutter approach that succeeds with all children. That is why CHOICE is important, and why parents have to be involved in helping find effective solutions for their children’s educational needs.

But there are OBSTACLES

Here are a few to start the list:

  1. Educators still differ about reading, and each wants their side to win: Phonics or whole word.
  2.  There is a lot of experimentation going on in public schools. This is a large pool of captive audience, and while new methods are being tried out, critics by way of concerned parents are not welcome.
  3. Besides experimentation about methods, there are also agendas, some call it social engineering, molding the “new man”, social justice, progressive education, whatever…. Again, critics are not welcome.
  4. Choices are limited because of financial constraints. Parents, as do other citizens, don’t like to pay double for services. Why should they pay school taxes as well as fees to private school or  suffer wage loss to home educate if they want out of the public school system?
  5. Organized obstructionism happens when reforms are proposed. For example, state voucher reform legislation in Utah was soundly turned-back when the combined forces (financial, manpower, organizational) of the country-wide teacher union (NEA) first forced a referendum, then overwhelmed the Yes side.

Education reform won’t happen until the obstacles and obstructionism are understood and counteracted. AND parents need to be equipped with knowledge and a Charter of Parent Rights to pursue their children’s best educational interests.

My new TOPIC in my blog will be: Obstacles to Reform and I hope others will add to the list started above. Parent Rights already has its own Topic in this blog. 

I should stress that I am as concerned about public school parents as I am about all parents who feel thwarted or frustrated. For example, Section 6 of Parent Rights and Their Children’s Education (1977) strongly outlines: The Right to Safeguards concerning privacy, assessment, experiments and innovations and that parents have special rights in these instances:

  • to receive a written description of the program, rationale, goals and supporting references
  • to grant or refuse permission for their child’s attendance
  • to receive satisfaction that the program is run by qualified, well-prepared personnel
  • to be involved in the ongoing evaluation.
 The Right to Appeal decisions in a public school should also be well advertised and understood by parents.