Who But Professionals

This is a slightly different twist on yesterday’s blog post.

I Dunno, (cc) photo by Marinda Fowler

Yesterday, I was listening to Steve Hargadon’s chat with education writer Audry Watters, a weekly podcast conversation on what Watters’ has been writing about, recent news stories related to education and the various conferences they have recently attended and worked. I’ll put a plug here for Steve’s upcoming Hack Your Education tour (the blog entry) to cities across the U.S. I’m hoping to make it to Philly or Washington.

Their (nearly) weekly podcast conversation is an excellent way for me to keep up with happenings and from an angle that I often learn something new from.  Hargadon and Watters’ takes on things suit my 60s “question authority” sentimentality and the passion I have for the toolbox that computers have become for me.

They both mentioned something yesterday (or during Friday’s recording) that I immediately identified with –– but have since turned around in my head.  Recently interviewing Education Week’s founder and former editor, Ron Wolk, Steve asked if any of the major political candidates were speaking substantively about education.  After a moment, Wolk replied, “No!” –– and Steve and Audrey agreed that the script on education was pretty much the same across the parties: accountability, global competition and achievement (as measured by high-stakes testing).

But I got to thinking, “Should we expect to hear substantively conversations about education from political candidates.”  They’re not educators.  They do not hold education degrees, earned from schools of education.  They do not hold postbaccalaureate degrees of education specialty like half of the teachers in the United States (49.5% in 2007-2008). ((U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). The condition of education 2012: Characteristics of full-time teachers. Retrieved from website: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/pdf/coe_tsp.pdf))

It’s a huge part of our problem today, that education in America has been captured and held political hostage by AMATEURS, whose message on the subject has more to do with the rhetoric that will earn them votes than deep and risk-taking conversations about the nation’s problems.  What’s worse is that part of their message seeks to demonize the very professionals whose leadership we so desperately need.  We have lost confidence in ourselves as educators and sometimes even bought into the global education reform movement’s (GERM) spittle –– with exceptions (Chicago).

It would make me happy to hear a candidate say,

It’s clear that the institution of education in this country is not working for our children and their future.  Even where performance is high, are we merely doing a better job of teaching children to take tests.

I don’t know what the answer is.  It is not my expertise. Formal education, in this time, is perhaps one of the most complex endeavors that a sophisticated society engages in, and it will take foreword thinking professionals to reinvent the institution.

I promise, if elected president (to Congress, the Senate, etc.) to assemble and consult the best and most progressive minds from the profession, to promote, legislate, and pass the best of their ideas, no matter how untraditional, and do all that I personally can do to make every school a point of pride for every community –– not because of the test scores, but because of the quality and creativity of the work produced and shared by its learners and graduates. 


13 thoughts on “Who But Professionals”

  1. Love your conclusion, have felt the EXACT same way myself. Makes you wonder what other kinds of expertise we expect of our political candidates (business?!) where that expectation creates a guarantee of surface-level thinking and assured disaster. 🙂

  2. But this is true for any area of policy, right (with the exception of perhaps law)? Business, science, environment, international relations, technology, education – our policymakers don’t have a deep, significant understanding of any of these…

    1. @Scott McLeod, This is true. But often, policy makers trust and rely on the counsel of the experts. Education is an exception, possibly because they’ve all spent so many years in classrooms with teachers, believing the lectur and grading is all there is to the job.

      That so much credence has been paid to business leaders, with something to say about schooling, speaks to a lack of credibility paid to educators.

      Thanks for the comment. Scott.

  3. The public tells the professional what they want the results to look like, just not how to achieve those results.

    When professionals meet goals, everyone is happy. When they don’t, one chooses another professional.

    Unfortunately for educators, unlike many other professionals, teachers can’t tell the public that their goals are impossible with the materials provided.

    1. @Neils Clemenson, I agree with your last point. But I believe that in the case of education, the goals being set by politicians dictate, to much, the how of achieving them. It is, at least in part, the goals that have changed.

      I guest that what I’m trying to say is that what it means to be educated has changed. My grandfather had a college degree in the classics (UNC). His brother in engineering (NCSU). But when they returned home to their farm in rural Lincoln County North Carolina, they had few books, no magazines, a weekly news paper if they took the carriage into town, about an hour away. Being educated then, meant memorizing the knowledge, because there was no place else to access it, except from our own heads.

      Today, we walk around with access to billions of people and trillions of pieces of content in our pockets. The knowledge is, more times than now, just a Google search away. Yet, policy makers still measure the achievement of educations goals by how much we have made our children memorize.

      The point of my article is that amateurs have little reason to consider education to be anything different than it was when they were students. ..and for that very reason, that wasn’t different from the schools their parents attended and their parents.

      Today, if what it means to be educated has changed, then the methods, infrastructure and means of assessment must also change.

      Thanks for the comment, Neils!

  4. I was stuck in calculating eigen value of 3*3 matrix, I used google but wasn’t able to find the solution to my problem, then my android device helped me to compute all my complex calculations. Here is the link of the application Mahrena goo.gl/wC7xJ , it helped me to solve complex equations and matrices. This application was useful to my colleagues as well, the group of ours constitute engineer – semester I, Students of XII. The application solves mathematical problems with such an ease that I don’t need tonnes of paper to solve my equations. The application Mathrena goo.gl/wC7xJ also helped me to understand the graphical picture of equations, it was cumbersome to compute the solutions and properties of the following equations
    f(x) = sin(tan(x)) + log(x), g(x) = x^4-5x^2+6x+100,
    the application also helped me to deduce exact results.


  5. Most educators have lost their confidence and passion about educating students. We cannot expect the government or president to educate our students when it is our responsibility. This is a big problem in the world, because people expect other people to do their job. As educators, we must set goals for our students and schools not the politicians.

  6. I agree as educator’s we set the guildlines, and examples needed to help our guild our kids for there future. I remember when i was in grade school how the teachers used to say we could have the next president of the United states in class. Its important to society that our teachers are able to help teach and better educate the children, and future leaders of our country.


  7. @Kristy,

    You are right. We set guidelines to train our students for the future. You never know what or who your classmates may become. We as educators must guide and prepare our students because that is our responsibility.

  8. I like the “speech.” Too bad no one will say that, ever. I’m not a huge political guy, but I do agree that education hardly gets any ink. All I hear are cuts in education. ‘Here’s less money, but do a better job, and jump through these hoops too.’ We can’t do more with less, we do less with less….and I think most educators can look themselves in the mirror and say that they bust their butts everyday to engage and make a difference with the students.

  9. Dear Mr. Warlock,

    My name is Courtney Block. I go to the University of South Alabama, and I am majoring in Elementary Education. I just want to start off saying that I love Podcast’s I just recently discovered them. They are a great way to keep up with information.
    I agree with what you are saying about the political parties! The candidates do not care about discussing our deeper issues! They only care about getting our votes and telling us what we want to hear. I particularly want to hear what they have to say on education.
    I am a mother to an almost one year old child, and I live in Mobile, AL. Currently we are the 49th in best education. I’m sorry, but that is a problem for me. I do not want my son to go to a school where he is not going to learn. If that’s the case then why have him go to school at all? I am actually thinking about moving because our educational systems are so bad.
    To answer your question about whether we should hear them talk about education? YES! They had teachers growing up! They know education is important. Yet because it is a sore topic to talk about they let it go unspoken. We need our children to be taught that it is okay to talk about something if you truly believe in it. My personal opinion they just don’t care.
    I did like your blog post today. It truly did make me think! So thank you.

    Courtney Block

  10. David,

    I think that the problem you outline is not just a political one but also one that we face from the communities we work in everyday. I think people feel that they attended school, therefore they know how schools should run and how students should learn. I believe we as professionals not only need to do a better job of sharing the difficult roles that we have but also teaching the public and politicians what our roles truly are.

    As a principal, people really don’t understand what I do on a daily basis. They connect my role to that of a disciplinarian and someone who manages the budget, rather than someone who is an instructional leader.

    I truly believes that it all comes back to the fact that we all were in school and so we believe that we understand what it takes to educate students. People have no idea how complex the work is that we do. That is the arrogance that I see when it comes to people coming up with education policy.

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