Dear concerned citizens:
Each public display of protest against the current movement to standardize education reveals nuggets of a potential commitment to systemic change in our public schools, generated out of the frustrations encountered in trying to influence decision makers to listen and change their ways.
There is widespread recognition that fundamental change is needed in education.
"Fundamental change is systemic, in that a change in one aspect of the system requires changes in other aspects for it to be most successful. This means that virtually all aspects of the current educational system are likely to be changed, (must be changed - emphasis added) including the use of human resources (e.g. the roles of administrators, teachers, assistants, students), material resources (e.g. space/classrooms, instructional materials, and advanced technology), and time (e.g. grade levels, periods in the day, hours of operation, and days of operation)." (Reigeluth, C.M., Banathy, B.H., and Olson, J.R., editors, "Comprehensive Systems Design: A New Educational Technology," New York: Springer-Verlag, 1993)
Have the frustrations generated from the current version of standardization reached a level of crisis sufficient to spur the necessary changes required for creating an effective 21st-century public school system?
The following words of wisdom, adapted from "Intimidation Rituals - Reactions to Reform" by Rory O'Day, have relevance in these times of uncertainty:
"Serious reformers should be prepared to take advantage of organizational crises. They must learn how to recognize, expose, and make concrete those administratively designed arrangements that do not satisfactorily resolve critical problems. It is in a time of crisis that an organization's members will be more eager to adopt new structures that promise to reduce the uncertainty and anxiety generated by a crisis.
"If an organization is beset by energy-consuming external pressures (as now being experienced from the federal and state educational agencies) and if the organizational elite (administrators and decision-makers) lack the resources or the will to initiate changes essential for organizational survival of the public school, an active citizen organization might well be ready for successful reform from within." (O'Day, Rory, "Rituals of Intimidation - Resistance to Change," published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Bethel, NTL, 1974, and actively read in today's debates over education)
Parents, grandparents, teachers and other concerned citizens are organizing from within, but they need a plan to combat the fundamental issues that the standardization movement has generated, along with confronting those weaknesses from school systems of the past. Action taken now, before it is too late, must resolve the broader issues of the present crisis lest another decade or more will lapse and the devastating impact of this standardization movement will be fully realized.
One resource among many for combating this crisis in our public schools is found in the book "Remaking our Schools for the Twenty-First Century - A Blueprint for Change / Improvement in our Educational Systems," available through www.robertlarnold.com. This book was featured in the SUNY Retirees Newsletter, spring-summer 2014 issue, under the title "A Journey Toward Remaking our Schools for the Twenty-First Century."
Here is a chance to take an in-depth look at what is happening in and to our public schools from a cognitive-developmental perspective that recognizes individual differences, learning styles and occupational choices. What we do not know about this point of view can hurt us. A dialogue about these matters will reveal what can happen when we learn more about what we don't know. A plan to EFFECTIVELY deal with this crisis will be an expected result.
"A New Vision for our Public Schools" is another important reading, based on the work of the late Bela Banathy, an acknowledged authority on general systems theory, available at cost from email@example.com along with a soon-to-be-published collection of essays by this education reformer.
Robert L. Arnold lives in Willsboro and is a professor emeritus of education at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.