The Best Hope For Public Education Is That Communities Vitalize Democracy And Exercise Local Control

Wow. I count forty education related web-logs that I’ve posted in the last four and one-half years — since I first started blogging.  Some of these essays are in my Lulu book:  Why You Are Not Entitled To Your Opinion.

The post that I find most personally provocative is #29: The Kettering School Board’s Biggest Challenge Is To Gain Public Support For Transformation written on September 10th, 2009, just one year ago — when I was a candidate seeking election to Kettering’s Board of Education.

As I see it, the only hope for the transformation of public education is that local communities elect members to their local board of education who focus on transformation of their local system as a priority.  The leap in improvement that is needed in public education requires getting our democracy to work at a grassroots level — a point David Matthews of the Kettering Foundation makes in his book, “Reclaiming Public Education by Reclaiming Our Democracy.”

The best hope that public education can be transformed is that, one by one, local communities begin to exert local control of their local system of public education.  Improvement in public education requires that one community show leadership.  It requires an improvement in the vitality of democracy, and, if there is one place on the planet where democracy should flourish, it just happens to be where I live:  Kettering, Ohio.

At election time next year, November, 2011, of Kettering’s five member board of education, there will be two positions open for election.  By the time of that local board of education election, my goal is to have my book (see #25 below) written — showing a plan and vision of the transformation of Kettering public education — with the idea that an informed public, if given a choice, will elect board member who support the vision outlined in the book.  For this new book, I hope to organize public seminars in Kettering to research and develop specific topics and to produce material suitable for publication.

To get my engine started, I’m going back and rereading these essays:

  1. The Education Of John Adams; March 22, 2006
  2. Schools That Would Make Joseph Stalin Happy; April 29, 2006
  3. The School of the Present Is Failing And Technology Is Not The Solution; November 30, 2006
  4. Motivation, Not Curriculum: The Key to School Reform; March 7, 2007
  5. Education For the Future Demands Authentic Teaching; April 1, 2007
  6. How Did Einstein Become Einstein?;  April 14, 2007
  7. A Great Question: How Can We Tell If a School Is Excellent? ; November 2, 2007
  8. Strickland Should Use Charter Schools To Help Fulfill His Promise: “Reform and Renew the System of Education Itself”; November 13th, 2007
  9. Public Schools Need Radical Reform, Educational Leaders Must Answer the Question: BY WHAT METHOD?; March 7th, 2008
  10. Barack Obama’s “Go To The Moon” Challenge For Our Time Should Be: Transform Public Education; May 9th, 2008
  11. To Transform Our System Of Education, We Must Redefine The Aim Of The System; May 27th, 2008
  12. The Change We Need In Education Is Radical Transformation Of The Present System; November 7th, 2008
  13. Let’s Frame the Question of “Achievement Gap” to Include All Schools and All Students; June 4th, 2008
  14. Thinking Through Purposes and Principles Needed To Guide the Re-Design of Public Education; July 17th, 2008
  15. In Education, Let’s Stop Trying To Improve a Horse and Buggy System; July 25th, 2008
  16. Strickland In His Educational Forums Shows Bold Thinking, But Bold Action Is Needed; August 1st, 2008
  17. John Goodlad Says Public Must Agree On “The Democratic Purpose Of Public Schooling”; December 16th, 2008
  18. Throwing Money At Public Education Is Not The Answer, System Change Is Needed; January 14th, 2009
  19. Gov. Strickland’s Education Plan Disappoints — Fails To Deal With The Central Issue Of System Structure; February 2nd, 2009
  20. Obama’s Theory That Education Is Key To “Lasting Shared Prosperity” Is Contradicted By Statistics; March 11th, 2009
  21. How A Lazy Disinterested Prince Came To Relish Learning, Treasure Understanding, Delight in Insight; March 23rd, 2009
  22. How Do We Restore And Nurture The Yearning For Learning We Were Born With?; June 7th, 2009
  23. When We Reject The Gods Of Our Childish Imaginations, What Remains?; June 25th, 2009
  24. “What Is The Purpose, The Aim Of Public Education?” — Every School Board Candidate Should Answer;  September 1st, 2009
  25. Kettering Public Education In The Year 2022: How Do We Get To A Great Future?; September 25th, 2009
  26. We Are The Ones To Make A Better Place; July 7th, 2009
  27. NEA’s Top Attorney, Bob Chanin, Says NEA’s First Goal Is To Advance And Protect Teacher Rights; July 9th, 2009
  28. What Quality Guru W. Edward Deming Had To Say About Reforming and Improving Public Education; August 30th, 2009
  29. The Kettering School Board’s Biggest Challenge Is To Gain Public Support For Transformation; September 10th, 2009
  30. If Education Is Just About Producing Good Test Scores, Then $11,000 Per Year, Per Child, Is Too Much To Spend; September 30th, 2009
  31. My Five Answers To The League Of Women Voters Emphasize Transparency, Planning For Future; October 7th, 2009
  32. Dr. W. Edwards Deming Urges Transformation — Warns Against “Remodeling The Prison”; October 8th, 2009
  33. The Key To Discipline: “Nurture The Yearning For Learning Every Child Is Born With”; October 23rd, 2009
  34. Public Education’s Biggest Failure Is To Prepare Students For Effective Citizenship; November 24th, 2009
  35. If The Bureaucracy Says You Are A “Quality Teacher,” Or A “Professional,” It Hardly Makes It So;  November 25th, 2009
  36. Pushing Kids To “Early College,” At End Of 10th Grade, Is Opposite Of Advancing Authentic High School Reform; February 25th, 2010
  37. John Goodlad Says We Must Agree On Mission For Schooling; May 4th, 2010
  38. Why Are There No Teachers in Kettering Schools Who Earn $200,000 Per Year — Or Even More?; April 1st, 2010
  39. How Authentic Teaching Is More Like Raising Beets Than It Is Like Building a House; June 17th, 2010
  40. To Bring Excellence To Public Education We Must First Engineer A Better System;  August 16th, 2010
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3 Responses to The Best Hope For Public Education Is That Communities Vitalize Democracy And Exercise Local Control

  1. Eric says:

    The best hope that public education can be transformed is that, one by one, local communities begin to exert local control of their local system of public education.

    Can you envision a sequence of events that causes Columbus to butt out?

  2. truddick says:

    Mike, reeading a bunch of old essays may help.

    Of more help, however, would be to compare U.S. schools to the ones in those other nations that succeed more than we do.

    A cursory examination shows that they are all organized exactly the opposite of your proposal. Denmark, Finland, France, Japan, Australia, do not have local control. They have a national education administration that creates a standardized national curriculum, streamlines administration, and in the end saves money while succeeding (much like their national health care systems).

    Getting rid of the OBE might not be so bad, but then you’re planning to give the board of DPS autonomy? Depending on which year, you would have semi-incompetents and wannabe politicos shaping the district. And if you think Dayton’s talent pool is shallow where school boards are concerned, what do you think might be the level in Arcanum or Enon or the other myriad small-town school systems?

    I know, I know. Some have rejected centralized government because they’ve still got Ronald Reagan ringing in their ears. But the fact remains that centralized government works well in nations that are open-minded enough to consider that government is not always “the problem”.

  3. Mike Bock says:

    Dr. Ruddick, thanks for commenting. I write an extended response here: “Strengthening Local Control Of Public Education Is Key To Achieving The Transformation That Is Needed.” I’m curious if you might agree with the argument I attempt to outline.

    The national discussion that focuses on “Waiting for Superman,” and NCLB is all about getting more and more kids to show minimum competencies — with the thought that sending increased numbers of these minimally competent kids to college can somehow make us as a nation more economically successful. It’s an interesting argument that if more kids knew their times tables or the quadratic formula, or AP chemistry — or whatever educational goal that comes to mind — that somehow that will translate into more national prosperity. If we graduate twice the number of kids with college engineering degrees will we then have twice the number of engineering jobs?

    Public education is always the whipping boy when the economy is bad. It’s all political. When the economy is roaring, I’ve yet to hear anyone give credit to public education.

    My premise is that our economy is going down the toilet because ours is a weak and disappearing democracy. The present ostentatious concern about public education is basically a magician’s trick of misdirecting attention from what is important to notice.

    The present election is good evidence that our democracy is a sham and our government is for sale to whomever is willing to pay the going price. A vitalization of our democracy is our only hope. The only chance for vitalization is at the grassroots level, and asserting local control of local education is our best shot to start such vitalization. Anyone paying attention should find it shocking that the educational establishment has so easily sold out and instead of showing any gumption or leadership, in exchange for money and attention, seems happy to give credence to the oligarchy in charge.

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