Message from MSA President Henry G. Cram, Ed.D
Welcome to the start of another new school year. This summer, I devoted much of my time to working through my summer reading list.
In his new memoir “How Schools Work,” former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan points to a disconnect between what American politicians say when it comes to education and what they ultimately do. The “big lie,” according to Duncan, is the discrepancy between the government’s professed belief in the importance of education and the absence of public policy or funding to support that belief.
What Duncan does not mention is that the key to improving education in the United States is to keep it in local hands. In fact, decisions aimed at treating teachers well and providing students with high-quality education should not be rooted in politics.
Education is, by design, a responsibility of the states. In most states, education is left to local control, and for good reason. It is a process best regulated, designed, delivered and assessed by people deeply rooted in a community who knows its children best.
It should not take a national policy for a community to provide quality education, to give teachers a place of distinction in our society, or to demonstrate the value we place on educating new generations of students.
Education reformers are extolling the virtues of world-class schools from Singapore to Finland as examples we should emulate. Studying those systems proves that America may well be on the wrong path.
The world’s best schools are not obsessed with dense curriculum or burdensome accountability. They are not spending more than the United States on education, and often their students spend less time in the classroom than American students.
What they do is invest in developing strong, local education leaders. Instead of increasing governmental bureaucracy, they increase the professionalism of teachers by giving them greater responsibility for educational decisions, and they encourage innovative solutions to educational challenges at the local level.
There is a new medical show scheduled to premiere this fall, called New Amsterdam, in which the lead urges his medical staff to forget about the business and politics of medicine and re-focus on patient care. In the TV trailer for the show he says, “Let’s be doctors again.”
A new school year is underway, and my message to all of our educators is this: Stop worrying so much about accountability and waiting for political solutions. Instead, do what you know works best for your students. This year, let’s be educators again.