Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Goal of Education Is Not Knowledge, but Action

I should tell you my father was a teacher his entire adult life. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, his oldest son, but he was very good at what he did and he loved doing it.

I have my appreciation for learning and respect for those who teach as an integral part of my genetic inheritance thanks to him (as well as my visceral dislike of bullies and phonies though my distrust of most people on the face of the earth is my own contribution).

Sydney J. Harris, a columnist for the Chicago Daily News and later the Chicago Sun-Times, noted “the whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” 

Saturday, March 1st, we’ll have an opportunity to use those windows as doors and step into a possible future path for the education of our children at a parent-teacher community forum on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) sponsored by the Connecticut Education Association at the Norwich Inn and Spa. It starts at 8:30 and lasts until 2 in the afternoon. Attendance is free but you should make your reservation now at 1-800-852-0355.

You just re-read that sentence and still couldn’t stifle a yawn. Let’s be honest, unless and/or until you have children in the Norwich Public Schools, the only time you pay any attention to education is at municipal budget hearings when we all become experts on costs and expenses, usually with little to no knowledge or expertise.

Talk about lather, rinse and repeat. Every year we look at the Board of Education’s budget submission to the City Council and start saying the word ‘no’ before the first digit in the total figure is even said. 

We have convinced ourselves we can purchase more comprehensive English Language Arts or enhanced competence in math and science as if we were buying chopped meat by the pound. Sorry, no. But cheer up because if you think education is expensive, wait until you calculate the cost of ignorance.

That’s why the development and constant refinement of what is taught and how it’s taught, coupled with effective and meaningful measurement of results and progress achieved is critical to preparing Connecticut’s students for college and careers.  

In much the same way as ‘it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile,” we’d like to believe the school our children attend isn’t all that different from when we went. Of course, if you’ve ever attempted to help your child do homework, after the shock of ‘they’re teaching this in the 4th (or 3rd or 5th grade)?’ you usually have to phone a friend if you’re going to be of any help.

And helping to make a world-class education even better is at the heart of CCSS and the parent-teacher forum is your chance to help that help. Public education is a shared frame of reference, the thread if you will, that joins us to one another in creating the fabric of our country. Each of us has a stake in the successful tomorrow that public education is critical in creating for each school-age child to live and work in. 

When our children succeed, we succeed as a community, a city, a state and a country. In the global marketplace of ideas and opportunities fortune favors the fleet and agile and public education is the key to unlocking the promise of better days. 

Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, captures perfectly the importance and criticality of life-long learning “(T)he illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.” 
-bill kenny

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