<rant>

So here’s the question I’m grappling with: why aren’t parents more angry about the education their kids are getting? I know, I know…it’s the same system they went through, most schools are getting over the traditional bar, the whole technology is changing learning thing isn’t dinner time conversation…I get all that. So what?

Humor me. Bring some imaginary sets (or onesies) of parents into a room and ask them these questions. What kind of responses do you think you’d get?

  • Do you want your kids to be problem solvers?
  • Do you want them to be able to work constructively with others to create useful stuff?
  • Do you want the things they create to contribute to the community?
  • Do you want your kids to be able to distinguish between relevant, truthful information and the alternative?
  • Do you want your kids to be creative, imaginative and curious?
  • Do you want your kids to work on their own, to self-direct their own learning?
  • Do you want your children to use technology to learn and create?
  • Do you want your kids to be passionate about learning?
  • Do you want your kids to be engaged in school?
  • Do you want your students to learn from/with different cultures?
  • Do you want them to be independent?
  • (Add your own here.)

I’m thinking few if any parents are going to say, “um, no, I don’t really want that for my child.” Right? Ok, so now ask them, “How’s your kid’s school doing with all of that?” Unless I’m just totally being delusional here, I think they’d struggle when pressed to assess the problem solving, collaboration, information sifting skills et. al. that their children are getting. I know I do. I mean, where is the grade for all of that? How many parents actively try to make qualitative judgments about all that stuff based on the conversations and work that their kids bring home?

Not many.

The other night, I asked those kinds of questions to some parent friends of ours as we went deep into the night talking about education. These were really smart, caring folks who absolutely wanted all of the above for their own children but didn’t really know if it was happening. I got the sense that they had an implicit trust in the system to do right by their kids, and that the grades their kids received pretty much told the story of their education. They struggled with those questions. Not to say they weren’t frustrated with some of the things that happened in the school. Not to say they were always happy. But they seemed powerless, even resistant to change it.

They weren’t pissed. (I am.)

We read everywhere that US school kids are lagging behind, and we all go through the requisite amount of hand wringing and worry. And I know that in the mostly white and privileged communities in which most of us live (have you really looked at the picture/avatars in your Twitter list lately?), it’s easy to say that it’s the other kids that are lagging, not ours. And I also know that for many, many people, just being able to go to school and do well on the traditional tests is an amazing blessing. I’m not suggesting this isn’t complex.

But if we really believe in the value of all that problem solving, collaboration, self-direction, passion stuff, and we take an honest look at what the current system values by what it assesses, it’s hard not to see the gap. I know, we get the assessments we can afford. I know at the end of the day, assessing all of that really important stuff doesn’t fit the “easy” model we have for schools right now. But what I don’t know is why there isn’t more urgency coming from the home. Do parents think that all of that stuff is just folded into the class grade somehow? Really? Or is there a fundamental reality about all of this that I can’t see (or maybe I’m not willing to admit?)

What’s up with that?

</rant>