America’s obsession with food has led to a proliferation of TV shows and several cable channels dedicated to the pursuit of epicurean delights. There are the food critics who pronounce the best recipes and places to eat – and the worst. Chefs who compete to produce the ultimate gastronomic experiences and expand our horizons when it comes to enjoying the latest food du jour. And restaurateurs who struggle to create the ultimate dining experience.
If only we could be as obsessed with education! We certainly have enough critics (politicians) with opinions about student achievement and school performance, and perhaps too many cooks (consultants) telling us what’s new and what works when it comes to education. But there appear to be far too few educational leaders who are able to put it all together in a school experience that offers the added value educational should provide.
Unlike the foodie revolution, we can not segregate opinions about education, knowledge of how it can best be provided, and how to implement a quality education program. The synergy among all three absolutely is required, if we are going to get serious about improving our nation’s schools.
Having an opinion about what you just ate doesn’t require the ability to prepare it. Having an informed opinion about a school’s performance demands a deep understanding of the process. Preparing an extraordinary meal in a chef’s challenge is remarkably different than delivering quality education day-in and day-out, and creating this week’s hottest restaurant is far from providing the institutional longevity required of most educational institutions.
But maybe, like some good dishes, education needs a “secret sauce”. One part knowing what needs to be done, one part knowing what to do and three parts (educators, students and parents) knowing how best to get it done.
Those who are serious about school reform, must – like the restaurant critic – have a lens through which they can objectively view their school’s current performance. And, like a great chef, they must have a deep understanding of the ingredients and techniques at their disposal, as well as the multitude of ways in which they can be combined successfully. Like a good restaurateur, successful school improvement requires having a finger on the pulse of the customer (students and their parents), the entire staff (teachers, administrators and support personnel) and the venue (community) in which it all takes place.
Providing world class educational opportunity is far more challenging than winning top chef – and a great deal more important. Maybe I’ll pitch a TV show featuring top schools to one of the cable networks. It will at least give them some food for thought.