Imagine if the people who lived and breathed education every day of their lives were the ones the public were able to engage with on a meaningful level.
Of course this is wild and crazy notion – the smirks and sniggers I get when I put this to audience after audience is testament to that.
But seriously, who are we listening to?
As I see it, the education debate in Australia is controlled by three main groups.
The first are the politicians. People for whom words like standardisation, accountability and competitiveness read like a recipe for education reform.
The second group is the mainstream press. Depending on the political leanings of the editorial you read, you might be forgiven for thinking Australian schools are the worst in the developed world or our kids are illiterate, knifewielding cheats who aren’t fi t for work once they do graduate.
And the third – and least likely – group of education debaters is the C-grade celebrities brought in by morning TV shows to discuss the latest issues in education.
“Why are so many university students cheating? Let’s ask the former I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here contestant…”
If the debate is reduced to pithy threeword vote winning slogans, catchy headlines or inane comments, the public – and in particular parents – don’t have the opportunity to engage with the issues on a meaningful level. So in order to form their opinions about their child’s education, they base it on league tables, My School or how it was in their day.
I’m urging every school I’m working with to have a larger say in the education debate. Schools can do this in any number of ways. Here are just two suggestions.
Firstly, use the school newsletter as a forum to tackle the issues in the media. For example, why are so many kids cheating? Schools can thoughtfully recognise the competitive and performance-based approaches to learning adopted by many families and suggest alternative practices to helping children achieve their best. They might offer up suggested reading such as Carol Dweck’s Mindset
as a way to engage in this debate.
Or secondly, blog. On a school or classroom level, blogs are wonderful for getting stuff out there into your community.
Link to research or interesting talks or video some stuff from class.
By talking about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it in school, the debate becomes far more authentic than the once a year parent-teacher conference.