Are We Missing the Point in Education Reform?

It’s been almost a month since New York Social Media Week, but been thinking lately about the Disrupting Education Panel I attended and how it really was the tipping point for me on this change I am going through in my thoughts about education reform. While I thought we were making big improvements in schools in the last decade, I’m starting to think that we’re completely missing the point. Here are some tweets I posted from when I was at the panel:


– We have to teach our kids how to mine brilliance on social media.
– Oh my. Panelist just mentioned holding teachers accountable for not using tech and social media


In case you don’t take much stock in tweets from the mouths of tech punks, here is an Ashoka Fellow and Brown alum saying the same thing just less direct and more eloquently and not using the term “social media.”



(Thanks to Timothy Johnson III for sharing the video with me via Twitter.)


At one time, I had wanted to do an insightful blog post on the State of the Union and how disappointed I was with Obama’s comments on education, but I got distracted and didn’t know how to express this change I was feeling. But it’s becoming clearer ever day. This Week with Christiane Amanpour intrigued me this weekend, especially a segment on trying to buy American products for your home. A group of ABC journalists went though the products in one typical family’s home and found that except for one vase, everything else was made overseas. When trying to replace the foreign-made products with American versions, the reporters found that there were entire products that aren’t even manufactured in our country anymore. Not a huge surprise, but the point that one of the journalists made that stuck with me was that our country obsesses over the fact that we don’t have workers making plasma televisions in factories here any longer, but we should be collectively focused on how new graduates are doing to design the next best thing after plasma.


And then I saw THIS video and was both depressed and slightly inspired.



(Thanks to my friends at TBEX NYC for posting on their blog.)

I am becoming increasingly despondent about our schools. Some say we know how to fix them, but we just choose not to do so. The current reforms, when they work, give more students access to middle class jobs, but now it looks like those jobs are disappearing faster than working class ones. How long will it take for ed reform to adjust to this new reality? “College for all” does not work. Middle-income jobs in health care and related fields don’t require bachelor degrees so why go into intense debt? Second, our colleges aren’t even teaching people to be creative or innovative (thanks Paul Krugman).

Ed policy is a mess. it’s become so focused on ideology and “who has the power to do what” instead of creating a vision for what habits and skills our K-12 students should be learning EVERY day, and how that ties into what we expect them to do at age 18 or 22 when they’re supposed to be out on their own and changing the world.

The social media thing sticks with me because it just reinforces how behind we are. Instead of trying to lockdown young people’s access to Facebook and Twitter, maybe we could teach students how to use it correctly to communicate and connect with the outside world and learn new things. As crazy it sounds, maybe creating learning standards and making social media an integral tool in K-12 education is where the debate should be.


Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog

7 Responses to “Are We Missing the Point in Education Reform?”

  1. Clay Forsberg March 10, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Currently our education system focuses on teaching our children “things.” All reform efforts involve improving our methods in teaching these “things” or facs. Whether it’s better teachers that engage their students to absorb these facts, or reducing class size … it all comes down to teachings “things.” Even if we succeed in finding and implementing the ultimate ways of “teaching and learning “things,” we still have the issue of what “things” should our kids be learning.

    At present, this decision is being made by people two decades or more removed from the world at present – let alone the world when our children join it. Restricting Twitter, Facebook and all their referenced articles and blogs only helps them “circle the wagons.” “We know what’s best and what the students should learn and we’ll be damned if anyone will tell us otherwise.”

    What you propose is teaching our students how to think, how learn on the fly and adapt. By using these tool such as Twitter, and yes they are tools – we teach our children to investigate, to digest different points of view and recognize the world is not just one book of facts … but rather a plethora of views, opinions and interpretations.

    No one can say what lies ahead in the future for our children, and especially each child as an individual. To be so pompous to say we know what will be the best opportunity for a certain young individual in a formative stage is wrong and irresponsible. All we can do is provide a foundation, a platform for which we can help them develop an “on-going” lifetime habit of education and adjustment … adjustment that will most differently be needed in an ever changing future.

    • Tracy Brisson March 10, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

      Thanks for your comments, Clay. They are very thought-provoking to me. I worked in K-12 education for 10 years and was really convinced that teachers were key- if we had good teachers, than every child could achieve. I didn’t question that much about what “achieve” meant and now that I have distance from it, I am really challenged. I am also frightened about what is happening in higher education and the fact that students are graduating without the skills we would expect.

      I was at a panel on higher education last night and someone asked why the business community doesn’t demand more from higher education in respect to educating people from their workforce and a professor said it’s because it’s much easier to recruit someone who thinks critically from overseas than try to change our institutions. He’s right, but it made me sad.

      • Clay Forsberg March 10, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

        Tracy, from your reply and specifically your last paragraph, it seems there is a disconnect between the business community and higher education. Where’s the “we.” here? Where is the collaborative action? Why isn’t business and higher education working together to not only ready the future workforce but also make use of them while they are still in school.

        I received a university degree in marketing in 1982 in North Dakota. With exception of one marketing teacher – I learned nothing from my classes, nothing. However, that doesn’t mean I learned nothing in college.

        I spent three years running UND’s music promotion group. We promoted acts such as Alice Cooper, Rush, Bob Hope, Roberta Flack and many others. My experience competing against the top private promoters in the upper Midwest was invaluable … a skill that would define my business and organizational world to this day. I also was heavily vested in the alternative energy boom in the early 80’s – which required me to learn computer programming (which I did on my own). This also was an experience that I still carry with me.

        If we sit back and wait to be taught “things,” whether in high school or in college – all we’ll know is the “things” we are taught. Higher education HAS to be more than that. And in order for it to be that – the business community has to be involved. They can’t just sit and wait passively for the colleges to magically turn out profit generating drones of the future. Higher education has to be that “crossover experience” that incorporates both work and education … mentored by both the public and private sectors. These quasi internships (I hate that word) should be a mandatory part of the college experience – and not just one class. My promoting wasn’t, nor was my work in solar and wind energy.

        My solution are incubators sponsored by local business. These projects would essentially be co-working sites modeling off of freelance co-working project springing up all over. Not only would they connect the private and public sectors, they would provide roots in the work community for the graduates when they’re done with school.

        Public funding is not the answer though. There will be too much interference from those that have no business interfering. It’s time for the private sector to assume more responsibility over their own future. And the biggest component of their future is their workforce.

        The psychological and economic wall between education and work, or community contribution MUST be torn down if we move towards a solution to the problems you defined. True change does not, nor has it ever, resulted from just adjustments inside the status quo.

        Also, on another note. I spent fifteen years as recruiter in the electronic prepress industry. Recruiting talent from oversees is next to impossible due to the limited amount of post college work visas available. This is an ongoing complaint of the high tech industry. Your contact was filling you full of BS :-)


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