So here’s the deal… I’m a fat guy. I’ve always struggled with my weight. As an adult, I’ve been as heavy as 415 pounds and as fit as 235. I’m pretty tall, too (6’3”), so I can often carry a lot of extra weight before I start getting concerned. I’m in one of those rough times right now. At 320 pounds, I know I need to lose weight.
My problem is this: I want my weight loss and my weight management to be easy. I want to be really good about Weight Watchers, or Atkins, or South Beach for a year or so. I want to drop all of the extra weight in that time. Then, I want to be done. I want to not have to think about eating differently anymore. I want to go back to living my life “normally.”
Unfortunately, living my life “normally” is what puts on the weight in the first place. Being “done” with my diet is the first step to regaining the extra weight. Not thinking about what I’m eating is precisely my problem.
I’m telling you this story because I think public education reform, and many of us reformers, are thinking like a fat guy going on a diet. Some of us think that if we can impose a test to measure learning and fire the teachers whose kids don’t make the grade, then public education will be fixed and we can be “done” with reform.
Others of us think that if we can eliminate these high-stakes tests and convince every teacher to use project-based learning, then public education will be fixed and we can be “done” with reform.
Many think that we can just force all schools to compete like businesses, then public education will be fixed and we can be “done” with reforms.
Still others have developed reform programs and think that if schools would only faithfully follow these, then public education will be fixed and we can be “done” with reforms.
Just like my thinking around my weight, I think the part of the above statements that read “then public education will be fixed and we can be “done” with reforms” is the real problem.
So What’s the Alternative?
Over the next few months, I’m going to think and write about a different way to approach school reform. As a teaser, I’ll offer this: Instead of thinking about what’s wrong with schools and what we need to do to fix it, let us imagine what a highly functioning school that meets the needs of the next generation of children might look like and how we can set out to build that.