We Don’t Trust What We Can’t See…

The other day I featured an infographic on IGad (InfoGrapthic-a-Day) that illustrated the declining or less than satisfactory level of confidence that the American public has in it’s education system. This was probably not an appropriate graphic to share on what was, for many, their first day back to school. But hey, what do we have to be exuberant about in the world of education today, besides the intrinsic joys and rewards of teaching — and having a job teaching. So I posted this GOOD.is graphic because I think it’s conversation needs starting.

At the top of the graphic is a not quite so striking decline in confidence since 1977 — 54% then to 38% today. Of course, we understand that this is merely a symptom of things going on that are much deeper and broader than what’s happening in real classrooms. What I found most interesting with this part of the graphic was that the decline was not steady. I dumped the data into one of my favorite graphing tools, OmniGraphSketcher, and produced the line graph at the right. It would be interesting to correlate the rather dramatic ups and downs of confidence levels with what was going on outside of our classrooms — the stories that were being told by people who had influence to gain by telling those stories.

What I found most interesting about the entire graphic was the portion that compared confidence values for other institutions, ranging from the military, with a confidence rate of 78%, down to, well, need I say, congress, with only 12% expressing confidence. ..and where did they find them?

Looking at the ranking on the right, I see an interesting, though blurry difference between the institutions earning more than 40% confidence, and the ones getting less. The military protects us and we feel it. The threat of terrorism is on our minds. We walk into small businesses everyday and we encounter the police, our churches and doctors every week — or there is a potential of encountering them.

On the other hand, most of us have very little direct weekly experience with the inner workings of our courts, schools, criminal justice system, newspapers, banks and congress. It is worth noting that Americans experience a significantly greater likelihood of being in jail, prison, or on probation or parole than we do of graduating from high school this year. ((“Total Correctional Population.” Bureau of Justice Statistics. U.S. Department of Justice, 7 Sep 2011. Web. 7 Sep 2011.)) ((“Fast Facts.” National Center for Education Statistics. U.S. Education Department, n.d. Web. 7 Sep 2011.))

Admittedly, there is a lot of gray space in this distinction. But my point is this. People will be less confident in something that they do not see regularly, or they can be more easily be dissuaded of their confidence by political spin. We’ve got to do a better job of inviting the public into our schools. We’ve got to sell them on “21st Century Learning” by showing it to them. We’ve got to inspire confidence by making people wish they could go back to high school. We need to ask ourselves the question, “How do we inspire confidence?

Data? ..or Performance?”

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.