What happened to community in schools?

Up until now, few parents have been united with each other or with educators for one reason or another. Some people believe the myths and stereotypes that linger about parents and educators. Some believe that the solutions implemented to date are valid and should be followed through. Some might even believe that competition is good for schools. The bottom line is that those of us who want the best for our children are being pitted against each other.

Stereotypes of poor and minority children are reinforced when school neighborhoods are closed because a school is “failing.” That leads to division among parents. “Silver bullet” solutions result in constantly changing mandates imposed upon teachers. When these mandates fail, policy makers put the blame on teachers instead of accepting responsibility. This both reinforces stereotypes that teachers are untrustworthy and divides teachers and parents. Despite all the research that supports collaboration in education, policy makers create methods of competition to “encourage” learning and “success.” The whole point of competition is to be better than someone else. How does this encourage learning? Again, it encourages students and schools to buy into the scoring systems, which leads to further division and reinforcement of stereotypes.

In The Art of War Sun Tzu says of enemies, “When strong, avoid them. If of high morale, depress them. Seem humble to fill them with conceit. If at ease, exhaust them. If united, separate them. Attack their weaknesses. Emerge to their surprise.”

And where there was once a sense of community in schools, where once parents and teachers have worked side by side for our children, we now look up and find ourselves estranged from one another.

I don’t intend to claim that the powers that be are intentionally at war with us. However, I do claim that intention is irrelevant. The consequences are what matter, and one of the consequences of today’s failed education policies is that morale is low. People are exhausted. Parents, teachers, and students are left to fend for themselves. It doesn’t matter to me if anyone intended to get these results or not. What matters to me is that I am unsatisfied with these results, and as a citizen, I will exercise my power to change them.

Will you join me?  Over the next coming days we’ll be releasing a series of blogs reflecting on ways certain education policies and practices continue to widen the rift.  Please pitch in with comments, stories, or suggestions of how we can begin to bridge the divide.

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