A Golden Bullet For All Your Silver Bullets

November 10, 2010

One of the big catch phrases in education is ” silver bullets.” Everyone is in search of silver bullets to solve problems in the educational battlefield. One group is looking for the silver bullet for the dropout problem. Another group is looking for the silver bullet for the bullying problem. Other groups are looking for silver bullets in the areas of student achievement, school budget shortfalls, teacher retention, etc. There appears to be silver bullets out there, somewhere, on the educational battlefield, that will solve our educational problems.

Some groups believe they have found the silver bullets that have the power to transform education. Bill Gates and the “Billionaire Boys Club” have found the silver bullet of Charter schools. Charter Schools have a nice, bright shine of silver bullets, but they have  lead cores. Generally, charter schools are artificially created success stories. High achievement, success, and good discipline is achieved by selective entry of “good students” and dismissal of “wrong” students. The Charter School Solution does not solve the problem of where are all the low-performers, discipline problems, ESL students, LEP students, special education students, etc. will go to school. If public schools disappear, the Charter Schools Solution is doomed to failure. The ‘Silver Bullet Charter School Reformers’ will discover their false solution was standing on the shoulders of hard-working, dedicated, and self-sacrificing public school teachers.

Mayor Bloomberg has found some different silver bullets. It appears all he needs is enough silver bullets to shoot all the bad teachers and union members and his educational problems will go away. Hopefully, he will have enough silver bullets for all the new “bad teachers” that appear and are created by poor test scores, bad  administrators,  lack of funding, poor school discipline systems and plans, low- performing students, or any other education problem.

President Obama and Arne Duncan have found their silver bullets in the ‘Race To The Top’ agenda and  ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB). ‘The Race To The Top’ silver bullet has at its core  testing and the belief that only the  results of  tests can be the true indicators of success or failure. Only through constant testing can true silver be discovered. Everyone and everything must be tested and a value and a consequence assigned for each result. Poor test results demands a teacher to be fired, a neighborhood school closed, or a state denied funds. High test scores justify the argument and rational behind merit pay, charter schools, privatization of schools, and federal funding of schools. NCLB is the moral lightning rod and justification behind the ‘Race To The Top.’ They believe the combining of these two programs will lead America to the educational promised land.

There is such moral smugness about these programs created by the people at the top,  who as children were never left behind.  Race To The Top allows the blame for the achievement gap to be transferred to ” bad teachers”, ” bad administrators”, and “bad schools”. The inconvenient truth is the policies and programs created by people at the top have created these problems. For decades, we have know the schools with achievement problems. They are the schools with low funding, crumbling buildings, few resources, large class sizes, and segregated student bodies.

With the transfer of blame to others, Race To The Top policy makers can come up with more top down solutions for the problems. These solutions appear to be more and more testing, firing of teachers, closing of schools, privatizing schools, and providing funds to those that buy into Race To The Top policies.

No Child Left Behind works much the same way. The thoughts and concepts behind NCLB are noble and just. The problem is that much like Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No To Drugs” campaign, NCLB is too simplistic and not based on reality. Nancy never had to walk home from school in a neighborhood controlled by violent gangs pushing drugs. Nancy was never in a situation where a no response could lead to a serious beating or death.

NCLB  is often used in a” bait and switch” way to transfer blame. The bait of NCLB is the truth that children have been left behind. The switch occurs as the truth is twisted to serve different agendas. The inconvenient truth, for the people at the top,  is the educational philosophies, policies, and programs created by people at the top has left half the children in America behind. The convenient truth is these same people are not held responsible for the failures of NCLB. Another convenient truth is that the parents, teachers, students, and schools that have suffered the most can now be made the scapegoats.  These scapegoat  groups should, next,  accept the blame for the problems in education.  After accepting the blame, these groups should also accept the punishments, sanctions, and new solutions presented by the people at the top.

Race To The Top and No Child Left Behind are doomed to failure. The people at the top confidently assume they have the answers to America’s educational problems. They came up with these answers without teaching , being a student, or living through any real life public school issue or situation. The elitist thinking of these programs is exposed in their solutions to educational problems. The solutions of charter schools, closing neighborhood schools, firing of “bad” teachers, etc.  are based on their school experiences.

This arrogant and elitist thinking never allows them to extend a hand down to the people that suffer the consequences of their decisions. This elitist thinking assumes that no solutions, thoughts, or educational programs could come from people living on the bottom rungs of the educational ladder. Only when the leaders at the top reach down and allow ideas, discussion, and solutions to bubble up from the bottom, will solutions to educational problems be found.

It appears everyone in education is looking for silver bullets to solve education problems. The truth is these silver bullets won’t work until you find the golden bullet. The golden bullet is fixing school discipline. America must demand good school discipline. When the school discipline problem is solved, all groups will be able to come together and work together to find and use the silver bullets.

P.S.      If you know anyone at the top, please let them know I have a discipline system and plan that will solve America’s discipline problem.

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