As the education reform debate comes to a head in our state, I hope our legislators and the people of Connecticut will think long and hard about what constitutes education and the true nature of learning, not just for our state, but for the entire country.
Let’s have a look at how some of Connecticut’s “reformers” view education. Here’s a post from ConnCAN CEO Patrick Riccards’ blog about the “13 Most Useless College Majors.” They include most of the liberal arts majors, like English, Political Science, Philosophy. History, Fine Arts, etc.
I find this incredibly short sighted. It’s the sign of someone who doesn’t understand what makes young people tick, what’s more, what our nation requires of its workforce to be successful in the 21st Century global economy. It’s symptomatic of what’s wrong with the entire corporate reform movement and our country’s current education policy.
Look at the company with a $600 billion market capitalization, Apple Computer. It was led by a man who attributed a major part of his success to auditing a course in calligraphy. Not all Fortune 500 CEO’s were STEM or business majors. In fact, in an article in Business Week Peter Crist of executive search firm Crist Kolder Associates spoke of the advantage liberal arts graduates have over those with undergraduate degrees in business or the STEM subjects: an expansive and inquiring mind, without which the leap from middle management to the top job is impossible. “I don’t believe leaders are born,” Crist says. “I believe over a long period of time, leadership traits are imbued in an individual.” One of the ways that this happens is through studying literature, history and philosophy – the history of big ideas.
Last night on Twitter, Jeff Klaus, husband of Achievement First CEO Dacia Toll, responded to the statement “Education reforms do not have to be paid for with bargaining rights” with this. It’s not the first time Klaus has compared educators, teachers or those opposed to provisions of SB24 with a slavery analogy. This isn’t just astonishing and offensive, but if we consider the true meaning and value of an education, one has to wonder who is really fighting for what is best for our kids.
Two weeks ago, Darryl Robinson, a graduate of DC charter schools, an eloquent, passionate op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he spoke about how he felt his schools had failed to prepare him for college: “I did what I’d been taught growing up in school: memorize and regurgitate information. Other Georgetown freshmen from better schools had been trained to form original, concise thoughts within a breath, to focus less on remembering every piece of information, word for word, and more on forming independent ideas. I was not. I could memorize and recite facts and figures, but I didn’t know how to think for myself. Now, in an attempt to think deeper, I sometimes overthink myself into silence.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s stated attitude towards reform is: “I’ll settle for teaching to the test if it means raising scores.”
The reason why so many teachers and parents oppose the original form of this bill is because we’re not willing to settle. We aren’t “plantation owners.” We believe all children are more than their test scores and with equitable funding (which, contrary to CCER’s misinformation, was a major factor in reducing the achievement gap in Massachusetts) they can learn not just to read and perform mathematical calculations, but more importantly to think critically about the world around them and become lifelong learners. Far from wanting to keep kids in “slavery”, we don’t want to sell them short by believing they should be taught to a test.
Sarah Darer Littman is a columnist and an award-winning novelist of books for teens. Long before the financial meltdown, she worked as a securities analyst and earned her MBA in Finance from the Stern School at NYU