I’ve written several times since I started this blog that I’ve become increasingly interested in “the big picture” as it concerns education. Policy, testing, reform, legislation, poverty, student needs, teacher evaluations, assessments, administration, pedagogy, etc. As a result, I’ve been doing a little reading, checking in with various bloggers—both local and national—and picking up a few books as the are recommended or reviewed. Two of the books I have been reading are by Diane Ravitch, and I also stop by her blog from time to time. I like what she has to say, and I admire and respect her. She has so much experience and can back up her views both with research, and with her own observations.
Needless to say, when I learned Diane Ravitch was the keynote speaker at last week’s CCOSA conference in Norman, I was a little bit jealous of a few of my colleagues. I’m not an administrator, so would not be attending the annual meeting and would therefore miss out on the opportunity to hear Ms. Ravitch speak.
Now, I’m a “rule follower”. So you probably wouldn’t find me asking a friend to sneak me into the conference so I could hear Ms. Ravitch’s address. That’s just something I wouldn’t normally do. But let’s just say I put a glass to the wall and listened through the door…here’s what speaks to me most about Diane Ravitch’s message:
It’s okay to change your mind.
She doesn’t try to hide the fact that she once found herself on the same side with reformers touting school choice, merit pay, and standardized testing. She’s very open about the fact that she once agreed, at least in some part, with people who believe in the very reforms against which she stands now. The ideas she once thought valid and that might prove fruitful have not panned out in practice. So she changed her mind, and now works to discredit the false rhetoric that public schools are failing and we need corporate reform to rescue us.
I can relate to this idea because I, too, once subscribed to many ideas about education that I no longer believe. I’m ashamed to admit how proud and cocky I was in thinking I understood issues when I really had very little knowledge or experience. I used to champion consolidation, and speak very openly about my opinion we were wasting money on administrative positions. Now, having met many administrators, I understand the necessity for their positions due to the mountain of paperwork brought on by so many unfunded mandates. I didn’t give any weight to factors outside of school influencing student performance. I couldn’t understand why low socio-economic status should affect a child’s experience in school. I didn’t see any problem with vouchers. Only crappy teachers should be afraid of merit pay.
I think some of these opinions were the result of having led such a sheltered life. I grew up in a two-parent, loving household that valued education and community. We weren’t “rich” but we were very comfortable. The question of college for me was never “if” but rather “when”. I thought everybody was capable of achieving what I had if they chose to, and I had no sympathy for kids who couldn’t make good choices.
I won’t say I’m wiser now. I certainly know less than I thought I did ten years ago. But I will admit that my opinions have changed drastically and I realize I still have a lot to learn. About teaching, about people, and about life.
But I’m grateful for good friends, mentors, and champions who are showing me the way.