Recently, Justin Hamilton, @EdPressSec on Twitter, asked folks to state what they believe regarding education policy. No, that’s not quite right – what he actually said was this:
I believe that reading and writing are the foundations of education. I believe that they are complex tasks, best taught through the actual doing of them. I believe that too many teachers don’t spend time in their courses on reading and writing, because they believe those foundational concepts to be “someone else’s job.”
I believe in the power of breakfast, and that a child should never have to wonder where his or her next one is coming from. I believe that we could solve the problem of breakfast, if only we wanted to, and that’d take us a long way towards improving learning in our schools.
I believe that children are capable of handling complex tasks and content. I believe that we, too often, underestimate their intelligence. I also believe that we do so too often to protect ourselves from discomfort or messiness. I believe that’s harmful both to the children and to all of the rest of us.
I believe learning is, indeed, messy. And that we should leave no child behind. I believe we think too much about the lowest common denominator in thinking about the success of our programs. I believe people rise to the level of the expectations set for them. I believe we continually lower ourselves to meet the expectations of our politicians.
I believe that needs to change.
I believe that educators should be the best and brightest of our generation. I believe that the best and brightest of our generation too often see a way to escape the classroom, and that, to them, leaving seems better than staying. And they leave.
I believe we pretend to do this more often than we do.
I believe that reading is its own reward, and that programs that focus on bribes and trinkets are not good for children or for learning. I believe that tricking children to read by bribing them with tickets or toys or food cheapens the value of the reading and ultimately hurts more than it helps.
I believe that kindness and compassion always deserve a place in working with other human beings. This is true in our legislatures and our classrooms. Our social media spaces and our press conferences. The rhetoric of “stupid” and “hate” and anger and four letter words just isn’t helping.
I believe that people who have “the answer” to any large problem don’t actually understand the problem. Human problems are complex and require multiple avenues of solution. I believe that differentiation should exist both inside and outside the classroom.
I believe the classroom should be a place that is sometimes in the world and sometimes removed from it.
I believe we have too many missiles and not enough books for children. Or enough thoughtful adults to spend time with them.
I believe the environment for learning is far more important than the script for what takes place while children and grownups are together in that environment. I believe that learning is a set of habits and practices thoughtfully applied and not a collection of behaviors to be enforced. I believe that inputs are more essential than outputs, and that changing our emphasis from measuring outputs to measuring inputs would make a difference for children and schools.
I believe that our children are indeed our most precious national resource. They deserve a better model of how to behave and to conduct themselves than we provide for them in the world on most days.
I believe anything worth doing is probably very difficult and that we will fail more often than we succeed. I believe one reason why we see so many simplistic and not terribly useful ideas in education is that sometimes it feels better to have a small and empty victory than it does to risk losing at something that’s actually worth winning.