Thursday, November 24, 2011

Educational dilemma! Turkeys in Dallas!?

"The result of the educative process is capacity for further education."
-- John Dewey

Men and women who have accomplished worthwhile endeavors in life typically have done so because they chose to work outside defined parameters. Throughout history, humanity achieves when we have dared to be bold. American history provides numerous examples of individuals who branched out from constraints that ought not have been placed upon them.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and all other Founding Fathers of the United States moved this nation from repressive rule to independence not by conforming, but by acting. Abraham Lincoln took extreme measures to hold the Union together. Franklin Roosevelt enacted radical policies to move the country from depression into the greatest fight mankind has ever seen. Martin Luther King, Jr. displayed great courage in defying laws he knew to be inherently wrong. These men command a sense of awe and reverence for their daring nature.

Great business leaders rose to prominence for the same reasons. Henry Ford innovated industry with the assembly line. Steve Jobs thought about developing technology in ways that changed American culture. Bill Gates, Andrew Carnegie, Nikola Tesla, Billy Graham, the Wright brothers -- all individuals who moved in a direction society either said wasn't practical or possible.

Enter Roslyn Carter. Who is she? A woman who achieved excellence in her field in an unconventional way. Carter is the principal of Field Elementary School in the Dallas city school system.

To boost the low math and reading scores of her third grade students, she instructed her teachers to focus only on those two subjects. Other subjects were not taught. As a result of increased instruction in math and reading, students' test scores improved so dramatically, the school was designated as 'exemplary'.

The caveat? Carter told teachers to falsify grades in other subjects not being taught. The school system placed Carter on paid administrative leave pending investigation.

Many Americans are highly critical of what Carter did as principal of her elementary school. She omitted other subjects from the curriculum, including other 'core' areas of social studies and science, which are important.

What critics overlook is the fact that math and reading are fundamental in achieving proficiency in other subjects. What can any student hope to learn if they cannot read on grade level? How can we expect students to achieve without requisite math skills needed in science?

Do I believe social studies and science need to be taught? Of course. Yet, I'm willing to sacrifice other subjects temporarily for the sake of bringing children to excellence in the foundations of learning.

If you read this and disagree, think about the method schools used to employ. The focus was placed on the '3 Rs' -- reading, writing, and arithmetic. Students mastered the basics and built upon those key foundations. Social studies and science can be implemented through reading and math.

And now, Dallas wants to punish a teacher who pushed her students to excellence, consequences be damned. The state and federal governments want a better education for children, but refuse to allow schools to move in directions outside the defined parameters of what is considered acceptable.

Instead of investigating this principal, maybe Dallas should commend her, the teachers, and students for a job well done. Carter dared to be different and succeeded in the same way other Americans have. Fields Elementary School proved what type of difference can be made when educators are permitted to focus their energies.

I don't advocate all schools following the example of Fields Elementary. That course of action may not address the needs of that particular school. However, when a school is lagging behind, why must we stifle innovative solutions that serve other elements of society so well?

Critics will point to Carter as a rogue of some sorts, who broke written rule and ethical law. But in examining the great leaders of our past (which we can do in no small manner by reading), you would see Washington and Jefferson as rebels, Lincoln as the great violator of human rights, FDR as borderline emperor, MLK a zealot, and Tesla as a loon.

I do not believe these people acted immorally -- they simply acted boldly when others said they couldn't. And we revere those Americans, not only because of their daring, but also because they achieved the goals placed before them.

Roslyn Carter took drastic measures to boost the academic scores of students under her supervision. The increased time in two key subjects pushed student test scores. The children didn't cheat on the exams, the teachers didn't do the work for the students, and the children are better off than they were before.

Why will Dallas seek to punish a woman who modeled the behavior of so many successful Americans?

Have a happy Thanksgiving! But I hope you don't approve of the turkeys in charge of Dallas city schools!

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