Sunday, August 23, 2009

Experts without Degrees

One of the interesting things about reading and writing on education is that to some degree everyone is an "expert." Whenever there is an article in the New York Times about education inevitably there are several hundred comments. The comments come from educators and administrators, but they also come from parents and students and even from adults with no children because, of course, they were once students too. Everyone in America has been to school so everyone has an opinion.  That is actually a great thing, because the people who post comments often have a greater ability to think outside the box and make common sense suggestions than the writers do.  The people with the most passionate comments have usually been "failed" in some way by the American public school system.  Unfortunately, most of the people who are selected to write on the blogs are actual "experts" and therefore have an agenda. For example, on a recent NYT debate blog on whether or not teachers need education degrees, the people who weighed in were deans and professors at education schools (duh, I wonder what they think?) and the rest were teachers, principals, presidents of non-profits, and a founder of a charter school. Guess what they all have in common? Correct. They all have advanced degrees themselves. So by definition the American education system "worked" for them!  How can these people, who sit in their air conditioned offices, and go to roundtable discussions and conferences and meetings where every other person in the room is a graduate of a top university, make truly innovative suggestions on how to reform a system which they themselves have mastered? The person who wrote the philosophy of our school, my fellow founder and director Kate Hyde, sat in school bored to death for years and years. It was her own personal experience of the failure of the public school system which led her to spend years on her own researching educational philosophy in order to create something new. Everyone in America has a stake in our school system. Everyone deserves the chance to be educated and succeed. As long as only the degreed and "successful" sit at the table making decisions we will never have true reform. The frustrated voices of children and parents who are suffering every day under a broken system need to be heard. The kids at my school are so lucky. They have parents or grandparents with the resources to give them a better chance. What about the kids who aren't so lucky?