Back to School

It’s already back to school time yet again. Rhett Allain at Dot Physics has a nice post with advice to students, faculty, and administrators. Believe it or not, this will be the first time in 25 years that September has not meant a return to the classroom for me (this includes four years as a teacher and 21 years as a student — counting preschool). Other than a major relocation, September will be just another month of work as a writer.

But even if I never teach again, education will always be a major interest of mine. Making education work for everyone seems like it should be simple, but somehow it isn’t. There are students dealing with poverty, abuse, English as a new language, medical issues, learning disorders, or simply a teacher whose style doesn’t match with their own. Yet with few exceptions, they have more say over their own educational path than their teachers, parents, national leaders, or anyone else. Like Dorothy in Oz, the ones that beat the odds realize at the end, they had the power all along.

Indepedence, determination, initiative, stamina . . . this is all it takes. But no one develops these qualities overnight, and it’s a much tougher challenge to try to develop these qualities in someone else. This is where it gets complicated. And this is where I call bull on those pundits and politicians who claim a single, Magic Bullet solution to a “broken” educational system (e.g., charter schools, standardized testing). If there were any single thing that worked consistently to turn out committed, independent learners, absolutely everyone would be doing it.

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