As H.G. Wells famously said, “Adapt or perish, now as ever, is Nature’s inexorable imperative.”
We know children are more than test scores. Let’s start acting like it. We know African American males are suffering; where’s the outrage among educators? Why do we keep blaming students and their parents?
We know we live in the information age. Why do we make children leave technology at home and cling to paper-and-pencil processes that were designed hundreds of years ago?
We know charter schools and public school choice are here to stay. How do we work together to hold each other accountable for serving all children well? What if we shared professional development, bulk purchasing, insurance cooperatives, curriculum expertise, and joined together to fight against union-busting tactics, budget cuts, and resegregated schools?
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant,” wrote Albert Einstein. “We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
I believe that our nation’s public schools, free and open to all, are also sacred gifts—not only to our democratic society, but to the world. For me, trampling on public education is like trampling on the flag.
As a public good, education is too vital, too fundamental, to democracy and national security (let alone global competitiveness) to be left to the vagaries and greed of the marketplace. Like democracy, public schools have not always lived up to their stated ideals. Yet the world, thus far, has failed to discover a better alternative.
Business entrepreneurs, billionaire philanthropists, and nonprofits serving as fronts for political lobbyists are not going to create schools that work for all children. I don’t want public schools to become a cash cow for entrepreneurs. I don’t want public schools to simply churn out better workers, although I do want more people to have good-paying jobs.
When did public schools get reduced to job training programs and become important only for their contribution to economic development? When did we stop wanting to develop leaders, thinkers, and humanitarians? When did we stop caring about people other than ourselves? Whatever happened to the notion that a democratic society requires an educated public, and that shared as well as individual responsibility is the flip side of freedom? Can you imagine what would happen if we ran our military this way?
With Einstein, I believe it is only our intuitive minds, our imaginations that will find a way out of our current mess. Our rational minds will simply lead us to create more of the same, and expecting different results—Einstein’s classic definition of insanity. We need to imagine a new future for public schools; our children, our communities, and our nation depend on it.
Award-winning eSchool News columnist Nora Carr is the chief of staff for North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools.