Time To Overhaul Our K-12 Education And Higher Education Systems
Posted on: 9/26/2011
The issues and challenges faced by our K-12 education and higher education systems today seem to suggest the need for immediate change. The change we seek, however, is not merely in how we manage these institutions, but rather a core transformation of the very essence and structure of these systems themselves. The list of ills that plague primary and higher education in America is indicative of outdated institutions that are floundering in the face of mounting cultural realities and financial pressure.
The controversial documentary "Waiting for Superman" explores the problems facing American education, and points toward a number of causes that converge to paint a bleak picture of our learning institutions -- parents who just don't seem to care, grandstanding politicians who meddle and prioritize their own interests, bad teachers protected by unions and the personal problems that dog the students and seem like inescapable parts of their lives. Another film, "The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America," is even more explicitly unforgiving in its verdict on our educational systems. While many will and do argue against how these two films interpret the situation, no one will argue that the problems presented in these documentaries aren't real.
There's enough blame to go around, but what we truly need to revitalize K-12 and higher education are solutions. And to arrive at solutions that have a chance at succeeding, we need to understand the root cause of these problems. Indifferent parents, meddling politicians, ineffective teachers and adverse personal histories are not the root cause; they are merely symptoms of a deeper, more fundamental problem. At least this is what business author and management guru Steve Denning believes.
Denning, the author of award winning books, including "The Leader's Guide to Radical Management: Re-inventing the Workplace for the 21st Century," ventured forth his "Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education" in a blog post in the Forbes Magazine website. According to Denning, the root cause of the education debacle is one thing: the factory model and how we manage this model. A by-product of the Industrial Age and its monstrous appetite for scalable mass production, American education echoed the model, reducing stakeholders in the educational system to mere cogs that contributed to its scalability and efficiency. Perpetuating the system became the primary mission.
But now the system is disintegrating, becoming ever more inefficient and requiring ever more resources to sustain, and the natural knee jerk response is to try to improve how we manage it. But Denning eloquently argues that we need to shift our focus from keeping the system running efficiently to inspiring individual students to embrace lifelong learning. In his speech at the Texas A&M University early this month, Ohio State University president E. Gordon Gee expressed a similar reform-centered stance for higher education when he called on universities to embrace change and reinvent themselves to continue staying relevant.
If not bright, then at least a hopeful and promising future awaits K-12 education and higher education in America, but a fundamental overhaul is called for, and it must happen now.
1. "Waiting for Superman," produced by Electric Kinney Films, Participant Media and Walden Media (2010).
2. "The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America," produced by Neal Fox (2011).
3. "The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education" by Steve Denning, (September 2011).
4. "Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee: Embrace change" by Vimal Patel, (Sep, 2011).
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