education continues to deserve low grades, even as elitist committees
propose one new program after another for teachers to implement. But
federal and state education committees cannot and will not find the
solution to America’s failing education system. Why? Because committees
are the problem.
Sputnik’s launch in 1957, committees have increasingly come to dominate
American education, telling teachers what to teach and how to teach.
School textbooks typically are committee-written and committee-approved.
The consequence is a narrowly focused, near-monolithic consensus view of
knowledge and education-practice, devoid of challenge, debate, and
variety; a one-size-fits-all approach that simply does not fit. Is it
any wonder that so many students “tune out” and “turn off” and so many
teachers “burn out”?
Increasingly, teachers find themselves at the bottom of an inflexible
bureaucratic pyramid with little opportunity or authority to exercise
initiative, teaching what they are told by committees in ways they are
told to teach. After all, committees, especially blue-ribbon committees,
know best, right? Wrong. Witness the recent demise of the Soviet Union,
a nation of vast geological and cultural resources, but a nation
mal-managed to bankruptcy by committee consensus. Governance by
committee leads to failure; Americans should heed history’s lessons.
now-defunct Soviet Union, committees ordered farmers what and when they
were to plant and how they were to farm. The consequence was long lines
at food stores which offered little for consumers to buy. Committees
like to tell people what to do and how to do it, but have little
appreciation for the personal decisions and individual judgments one
must make to be successful. Moreover, committee-control robs the
individual of incentive, leading to uninspired performance and absence
of initiative. Teaching is like that, too. To be successful, a teacher
has to connect individually and personally with students, guiding them
into fruitful subject areas which they may find interesting, relevant,
and beneficial, and then striking a spark, kindling imaginations,
motivating, and jump-starting students’ self-interest.
solution to America’s failing education system, I submit, is to turn
that pyramid upside down, to put classroom teachers back in charge. Here
I propose a two step plan to do just that.
the Federal Government should begin the systematic dismantling and
elimination of programs and grants aimed at “improving” education by
directing what should be taught and how teachers should teach.
the Federal Government should establish a permanent and growing
Internet-based Teacher Exchange Resource Repository Archive (acronym
TERRA). Think of TERRA as being a cyber-space entity to be structured
only by teachers for teachers, a place for teacher-to-teacher
communications, a place for teachers to post ideas for classroom
demonstrations and science experiments, and a place for teachers to
share and explore different teaching methods and experiences. Think of
TERRA for teachers as being like the Great Library of Alexandria, a
massive, permanent repository archive of video lectures, demonstrations,
computer-based exercises and more, all readily downloadable, the best of
the best available to all teachers, to public, charter, private,
parochial, and home-school teachers.
establishing the independent TERRA Foundation, the Federal Government
should encourage teachers to stretch the bounds of education, to open
new possibilities. For example, TERRA could include in-depth video
lectures and learning activities on pragmatic, employable skills.
Welding, for example, can focus not only on technological skills, but
can be a portal to learning various subjects, like the elements, how
they behave and combine, the nature and flow of heat, the relevant
mathematics, with particular emphasis on the business aspects and on the
knowledge and training requirements, to list just a few. Teachers
throughout the nation know or know of skilled individuals who might like
to volunteer to share their knowledge, which teachers could encourage
and help to package as video lessons for students.
need not be limited to video. Teachers could, for example, post
textbooks or book-sections which other teachers might combine to make
customized e-textbooks, which could be downloaded for reading on digital
reading devices. Potential abounds.
should be underlain by guidelines. Its operation should be restricted to
the domain of practicing teachers. All postings should have a section
for teacher comments, endorsements, criticisms, and flags for
inappropriate material, such as potentially dangerous laboratory
experiments. TERRA contributions and exchanges should be signed;
screen-names should not be permitted as secrecy inevitably brings out
the worst in human behavior. For independence, TERRA should be operated
as a permanent U.S. Government foundation, not associated with any other
institution whose own interests might come first. Commercial, political,
labor-union, and religious activities should be prohibited.
and implementation of TERRA would stand as the U.S. Government’s
commitment to place teachers at the top of the pyramid, to allow, to
encourage, and to support teachers in a fundamentally new, major
renovation of American education. And, appropriately, participating
teachers should be rewarded financially and recognized professionally.
TERRA, I submit, will profoundly change and improve American education.