Inspire Through Conversation

marschhausen_john_hcsdWe live in a world dominated by absolutes – a world that is lived at the extremes.

We live in a world focused on the immediate – a world that doesn’t want to wait.

We live in a world that is fast to blame, slow to forgive – a world that seeks the silver bullet at the expense of the process.

The extremes – the immediacy and the blame – that so often dominate our world today often fly in the face of innovation, of problem solving . . . of learning itself. Learning isn’t always immediate; learning is a process. Learning requires experiences and learning requires ownership. 

The recent release of the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) ranking has once again ignited many conversations about the American education system. There are those who use these international comparisons to criticize public education in this country – quickly placing blame at the feet of educators, unions and institutions. There will also be those who will assert that the American education system is the most diverse system in the world – a system that has become a social agent and a system handicapped by large numbers of students in poverty.

Is the American education system the cause of the growing economic disparity in our country or is it the answer to close the growing economic gaps in our country? Has the current system created a vibrant, creative economy or does the current system bring instability to our financial future? It is a “chicken or the egg” questions . . . it is a question that demands our attention.

As an educator I am encouraged that education has our nation’s attention; I believe education is the silver bullet. At the same time I don’t believe there is one answer; education is complex. Education demands individual conversations. There is no single national or state policy that will improve education. We must seek opportunities to improve education for all students. This isn’t possible with one-size-fits-all laws, policies or initiatives.

Our schools don’t seek to simply produce exceptional test takers; we want to produce exceptional learners. The skills required to be Ready for Tomorrow include problem solving, critical thinking, perseverance, and creativity. Our conversation must not be limited to international assessments, but each must be piece to a complex puzzle. Our conversation must include personalized learning based on student interests, but must also include basic skills that we expect all students to master.

By having conversations – conversations about moderation, personalization and differentiation – we inspire confidence in our efforts. By engaging parents, by empowering students and teachers we cultivate trust and embrace the complexity that confronts our education community today.