Monday, October 19, 2009

The Best Policy






This morning on my local Public Broadcasting station I listened to a portion of a call-in show on class size as a crucial issue in education today. I'm sure some figures were recently released placing Oregon among the states with the highest class sizes. I'm sure too, that some socially conscious producer put together a panel of "experts" to discuss the issue and invite listeners at home to call in and make comments.
I admit I only heard a portion of the program, but I feel compelled to comment on what I did hear. OK, I'll go straight to the point; what got my goat was a panel member who had taught for a little while and is now a "policy wonk." When this person was asked why she left the classroom, her answer skillfully moved from never giving any specific detail to a description of how policy was her real calling, to some other murky mumblings about other murky things. My point: how can someone who has never taught more than at least one decade be qualified to discuss the issue of class size? Granted, it only takes one year in the classroom to learn that the number of bodies under your charge has major consequences. Sure they can spout figures and studies, but my feeling is if they are still questioning whether or not class size matters, they' haven't a clue.
Emboldened by my surging frustration, I placed a comment on the OPB web site.
I fear I'm becoming a curmudgeon. It seems as if I have this strong drive to react to things I hear in the media, especially about education issues. Maybe it's become my role. If so, I need to think about how to continue to play this role without alienating the people I'm trying to reach. It's just rather difficult to keep my cool when the issue, like most in education today has a lot to do with political will. Why do we continually have to convince ourselves that we deserve good schools? Most educators I know have come to realize that people who study the issues and sit in think tanks all day mean well, but their efforts rarely effect change.
More and more I'm coming to believe that there is a strong parallel between education reform and health care reform. Put simply, what do we care about more...health or profit. Who do we care more about people or insurance companies? In our public schools today, what do we care about more, test scores or educating people. Who do we care more about...teachers or policy makers.

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