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« Complacency | Main | The Quotable Warlick »

Meme: Five Things Policymakers Ought to Know

I've been tagged by  teacherninja to respond to a meme that started with Teacher in a Strange Land. It's called Five Things [Educational] Policymakers Ought to Know. It's been a long day but I'm willing to give this a shot...

1. You can’t keep kids safe by blocking access to any potential harm on the Internet.
Education is all about making safe mistakes. A spelling error made, caught and corrected on a term paper is not career threatening; a spelling error on a job application might be.  Internet use ought to allow for some errors in judgment – when the lesson learned is not permanent. CIPA, DOPA and other heavy-handed legislation is not in children’s best interest.

2. Accountability can be demonstrated by better means than tests.
The kinds of skills needed for success in a global economy – creativity, problem-solving, effective communication, etc. – can only be measured using performance-based assessments. These formative assessments, those that not only accurately measure student abilities but help grow skills, need to be counted when judging a student’s and school’s skills.

3. Schools are excellent stewards of public funds.
In the schools I’ve worked for, every penny is accounted for, every discretionary nickel spent on services or products fiercely judged to be of value, and every dime viewed as precious, given all the competing, unmet needs in the schools. This may not be the case everywhere, but it is where I work. Money spent on education is not just well spent philosophically, but “well-spent” fiduciarily.

4. You skimp on art, music, sports, drama, world languages, tech ed, and libraries the U.S. economy will tank - sooner probably than later.  

The easy budget cuts are in the extracurricular and elective offerings by schools. Ironically, as manufacturing moves to cheap labor markets or is automated, as service sector jobs continue to pay less than living wages, and as an immigrant workforce provides manual labor, the jobs that provide a middle class lifestyle will be “value-added” – those involving design, creative problem-solving, empathy, powerful communication, teamwork and cultural understandings. Guess what best emphasizes those qualities in our schools? - those programs that are first to be axed. As David Warlick among others reminds us, schooling that may have worked for our generation won't work for this one.

5. Keep politics out of education.

If your definition of politics, like mine, is “values in practice,” this may well be impossible. But the divisive politics and politicking of the past decade or so has had a detrimental effect on education. Long-term planning, serious implementation of new programs, and longitudinal research are all impossible when educational philosophies change each time a new party moves into the governor’s mansion, the White House or a department of education. Students’ futures should not be markers in games of party one-upmanship.  The end result of shifting political winds  is kids getting buffeted.

OK, great minds. This meme is passed to...

John Pederson

Cathy Nelson

Tom Hoffman

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Reader Comments (7)

Great work. I think what you said in "Keep politics out of education" is what I was getting at with "More local control" but, as usual you have thought it out and explain it better. Good work on your assignment. I'd give you and 'A' but I'm trying to avoid grades. The rubric for this performance-based work would certainly be in the smiley-face range.

August 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterteacherninja

Okay I posted mine--hope i don't get fired.

August 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Nelson

Number four says so much. I was saddened when they started removing courses like auto repair and cooking from the curriculum. I still remember learning to sew in high school and laughing until my sides hurt when my sister made a pair of shorts with the places for the legs coming out the sides. Not only do vocational type classes serve as a springboard to some respectable, important jobs, they also provide us with skills that will help us in our daily lives.

August 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBetty

Thanks for playing--the "5 things" meme has ended up at some prestigious URL addresses--and I count Blue Skunk among them. I also like #4 on your list.

My 20-year old son just switched majors from "Mechanical Engineering" (minoring in automotive engineering) to "Media, Design and Technology"--an interdisciplinary degree program created just two years ago. We live in Michigan, where every other person is a mechanical engineer (and, increasingly, an unemployed mechanical engineer). My husband fretted: how will he ever get a job? Fortunately, I was able to point him toward Yong Zhao and "Whole New Mind" before he pulled the plug on supporting our kid. Policy-makers are often like my husband, operating on decades-old information.

Thanks again. Nancy Flanagan, Teacher in a Strange Land

August 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Flanagan

@ Thanks, Betty. A liberal art college curriculum is not for everyone, but that is what most educational policymakers have had, so they think it SHOULD be for everyone.

Maybe we need more auto mechanics on our school boards!

All the best,


@ Hi Nancy,

I am not sure about the "prestigious" bit, but thanks.

My 22-year-old is (was - he's now graduated) studying video production. If he is strategic about his job choices, not thinking that he can work for Peter Jackson out of the gate, I think he can do quite well. It's hard for dads to watch their children take risks, however!

All the very best,


August 11, 2008 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I brought up this post while facilitating a classroom blogging course yesterday. I was modeling the importance of aggregating and reading blogs first prior to having students post.
I don't think they wanted to go out on a limb responding to some of the comments.
#1 scares them as classroom teachers. I think they agree with the concept, but don't want the responsibility/headaches associated with it.
For example, while searching for feeds, the health teacher came upon this on CNN.
I would be surprised for CNN to show up on anyone's blocked sites list (Unless they are loyal FOX News viewers. ;-) ), but some of the elementary teachers were uncofortable with the headline, and having to explain to parents why it may have showed up on their classroom projector, or explaining to a 2nd grader what a "pole dance" was!
While I agree totally with #3, I worry about your comment regarding people being "cut out" for Liberal Arts.I feel that the decline in the value of a liberal arts education in our society is at the root of some of our curent political problems. To me a liberal arts education is designed to get people to consider other points of view.
True not everyone is cut out for it..."it's not practical", some might say, but it is a crucial element of an informed electorate!

August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterM. Walker

Hi Michelle,

Great points all.

I am concerned about why so many teachers are reluctant to take risks anymore. Part of the problem with the use of the Internet is that it accelerates the "One Big Room" trend that Postman talked about years ago.

Point well-taken about the liberal arts education. I just think we shoe-horn too many kids into that path that would be happier in more vocational areas. Many will look to more liberal arts type educational opportunities as they mature, I believe.

All the very best and thanks as always for posting.


August 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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