Fear in Education: Anonymous Q & A

So…you open your mouth, not even so much in condemnation, but with inquiry, with suggestions, possible solutions…

Oh, wait… that type of person, educator or not, is often frowned upon. Branded a trouble maker, not having Team Spirit, not following the herd, well, you better run, duck and cover… it’s a bumpy road ahead of you. That is, if they don’t fine a way to get rid of you, somehow.

Keep to the status quo, stay silent, vote the way we want you to vote, don’t upset the apple cart, and please: We’ve always done it this way! What are you? A radical?

Whenever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms.
Che Guevara

I sent out an interview/questionnaire to a number of people who have voiced concerns about the state of education today. Some, I never heard from. A few tell me that what I’ve asked is too much (12 questions) for them to devote any time to (that one I don’t get). Others are in the process of writing, with research and more. A few have asked to remain anonymous.

Before you cry “chicken” or “Stand and Deliver!” or whatever, understand: there is a lot of petty revenge that goes on in school administration and with policy makers. They can be vindictive, and jobs can be threatened (and right now, with our tanking economy, I understand the need to protect yourself but still want your voice heard. I have shot myself in the foot a number of times over the years, but I don’t suffer fools gladly.

Q&A #1

1.       Why do you care about the educational system of today?
I am a teacher – I care about kids and the future.

2.       What is your background (short bio)?

I was an unhappy student, and initially a reluctant teacher.  I am now quite inspired and fulfilled with much of that job.  I teach a variety of theatre arts classes in an urban magnet school grades 6 – 12.

3.       What do you feel is an overriding problem(s) educators are facing today?

Apathy, cell phones, internet.  Kids will do almost anything for a grade but don’t value their own learning.

4.       How do you feel this problem (these problems) can be solved?

I don’t know.

5.       What changes/paradigm shifts do you feel are necessary?
Experiental learning over testing – a given.  But that’s easy…
6.       What is your view on Process vs. Product?
Yes, I work hard to create a great product but I would toss that away for a rewarding process any day…it’s all about the journey.
7.       Do you believe Arts-In-Education are important? Yes or No, can you please explain why you feel that way?

Yes!!  You can learn almost any core subject from a book, the internet or TV.  The arts help you to learn about yourself as a creative being, as an individual with a voice, as a member of society.

8.       If you believe we should replace the Standardized Testing process, what form of assessment do you feel the students would benefit more from and the policy makers would be “happiest” with? If you agree with Standardized Testing, could you please explain why?

I do believe that Standardized Testing should go.  Not sure on an alternate form of assessment.

9.       What role do you feel parents/guardians should have with the schools?

A school should be a community with parents being a essential voice within that community.

Q & A #2

1. Why do you care about the educational system of today? As an overall human, it is the means by which we are creating our next generation. I have gotten into discussions with others about the funding of education and I maintain that while my wife and I will never be able to have children, we will benefit from a good educational system. I’d rather live in a society that is better educated than mine. As an educator….well, if I don’t care about the educational system then I am living a lie. I am an educator because I was put on this earth to be one and help others.


2. What is your background (short bio)? Arts for many years. History Teacher through a non-traditional licensing program.


3. What do you feel is an overriding problem(s) educators are facing today? Bloated and misunderstanding/selfish management struggling with “higher expectations” and smaller funding. The “education crisis” of today cries of the same worries about our educational system in the 50’s after Sputnik and the 80’s when “competing with Japan.” The newest wrinkles include economic recession(s), a chip on some shoulders that an earlier generation was wronged when in school and a lack of understanding from prior generations that the world/business model has changed. The old methods cannot work anymore because the job market has changed so drastically. It isn’t an academic link but this video made quite an impression on me a couple of years ago and it is still powerful (I’m going to have to send the link separately – it won’t let me without erasing everything else).


4. How do you feel this problem (these problems) can be solved? Stop trying to fix things with a broad, simple brushstroke. Swallow some pride and look in and outside of America to see what works. These are problems that need to be worked on by EVERYONE (politicians – though most major decisions need to be made on a very local basis as needs change from place to place, administrators, teachers, all of the adult family unit). The family unit is so important in the early cognitive development. We cannot regulate what goes on in the family, but educators need to reach out to the families in a more proactive way. I have seen too many times when families and educators view each other as the enemy. There are school systems that work well with the communities and those are usually the ones that show higher scores in testing.


5. What changes/paradigm shifts do you feel are necessary? In addition to the above there are too many teachers that simply give reading assignments, handouts with fill in the blank from those reading assignments, power point lecture with the answers to those fill in the blanks and give a (most of the time multiple guess) test over those hand outs. Educators cannot go about things with the same approach at all times. Besides, our students need to learn to reason, life is not multiple guess.


6. What is your view on Process vs. Product? Both need to be assessed at all times. The results of the process should be seen in the product and the results of the product should assess the process.


7. Do you believe Arts-In-Education are important? Yes or No, can you please explain why you feel that way? Yes. This is another area where “groups” should be working more closely. One can find most if not all of the “academic” classes in every medium of the arts. Both “arts” and “academic” educators need to find these connections and find a way to work together. Repetition is very important in education and being able to find where these intersections take place will only be beneficial to the students. Besides, it will help when overlapping learning styles.


8. If you believe we should replace the Standardized Testing process, what form of assessment do you feel the students would benefit more from and the policy makers would be “happiest” with? If you agree with Standardized Testing, could you please explain why? I believe there is a place for standardized testing, but too much emphasis is placed on it. There are many types of non-traditional assessments as well that can measure what our students are learning. I understand that agreeing what types should be included and cost can become an issue, but we must have multiple methods of assessing learning.

9. What role do you feel parents/guardians should have with the schools? Educators and administrators are partners of parents/guardians when it comes to the education of the children. We are all a part of a community and all should be treated as such.


10. You can create the ideal school: what THREE things must be in place that are non-negotiable? Strong Leadership with great communication; Firm, yet flexible (when appropriate) discipline; and respect for knowledge/learning.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 06:56:25

    Anonymi (?) have some good points. Especially 1-3 and 2-4.
    The kids are now reflecting society’s mores. That’s why they are grade driven (I must get an A), but feel they have to learn nothing, or little at all. It’s akin to the Hedge funds raking in the dough for no real activity, or the allusions in our society to companies making it rich selling nothing of value. Since our politicians have destroyed (via the policies) the ability to get ahead with a hard work, why work hard in school? Besides, they have a nine word phrase that will solve the problem!


  2. bornstoryteller
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 06:58:53

    Thanks Roy. I have more answers coming down the ‘pike. I’m happy to post other POV. The big thing is: doing something, more than spouting off.


  3. Jenifer Hachey McGroarty
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 09:31:20

    Arts in education is something I fought for when my kids went to school in SoCal. I will continue to fight for them because I believe in it’s importance.


  4. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words)
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 10:17:29

    I chuckled a little with your reference to Che, as I am about to watch Evita tonight, where my daughter is performing in the children’s chorus. That, of course, is besides the point. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of the arts (particularly theater) to change the world. And yet, too many artist and teaching artists huddle down in the sidelines, not agreeing with the status quo but doing nothing to change that status quo. We have been too cowed by a broken system, and that needs to change, although I’m not sure how it can.


    • bornstoryteller
      Aug 09, 2011 @ 20:14:40

      Lisa..you took the words out of my mouth/blog.

      I have said, here and elsewhere, that we artists are NOT united in any real way. So, you get this attack on the arts, and we raise our voices, but it’s too little and too late. Look at what happened in the Spring with the attack on schools: everyone was up in arms, then…poof…do we hear about the Gov who essentially made a Fascist move? Do we still unite about it, or is everyone on vacation right now and just sitting in the sun?

      What we can do is UNIFY year round, 365 daily/12 months a year, and be PROACTIVE instead of being reactive, which is all we seem to be doing.

      Don’t cry for me, Argentina.


  5. Brian Grant
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 10:40:48

    ah the language of education…

    I’ve got 4 kids and often spend time with them redefining terms. I begin by telling them that each has only one teacher in life and that’s YOU. All knowledge is self-taught – no one opens your head an pours it in. All those referred to as “teachers” are really instructors, trainers, maybe a facilitator or two – but never a teacher.

    What most call education I call schooling. What’s tragic these days is that schooling in the US has much more to do with control and conformance than learning. Learning in innate for most humans, especially young ones. It’s unfortunate that schooling convinces so many that only a “teacher” can deliver a learning environment.

    Education is a self directed endeavor and it often happens when you’re not in school. Education is learning how to use YOUR training for pursuing YOUR interests – not the state’s or the board of education, etc. An accumulation of training might provide a credential – a diploma or a certificate or a degree – and that might be a worthy goal – but your education doesn’t end with it – credentials only exist as proof to others of your training.

    Your education is unique to you. Don’t be fooled by those described as highly educated – they’re more likely highly trained and should be regarded as such. The highly educated are few and far between – some even have credentials – but many don’t.


  6. michelleshaeffer
    Aug 09, 2011 @ 14:48:14

    These were really interesting. And you’re right – we’ve got to DO something, not just spout off. I agree with Roy as well, it’s becoming more and more difficult to get ahead with hard work. We’re punished for success (or for being different) in many ways and rewarded for doing nothing. Makes it difficult to teach kids the value of hard work. I think testing is a useful tool, but only a tool and shouldn’t be the most important focus.


    • bornstoryteller
      Aug 09, 2011 @ 20:17:37

      Testing is ONE tool, not the be all and end all. I DO believe in testing, but to find out what did they understand from what we’ve experienced as opposed to studying ONLY to pass the test, and not getting how to really use or understand that info. Thanks Michelle.


  7. justanotherthoughtonline
    Aug 10, 2011 @ 07:23:43

    Tests don’t measure creativity and innovation. They don’t reflect the kinds of problem solving that is required in every career that exists. It is true that tests have their place, but it is also true that they are overused. This is a reflection of the industrial mindset that plagues the education system and our ever flailing economy.


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