If you read my writings you know I am passionate about this upcoming generation. I personally invest in them as I have the opportunity. I also serve our public education system as an elected board member. There are many critics of the public schools, I would like to focus on what I see them doing well from the perspective of a parent, community leader, and as a Christian.
I think that two of the most powerful movements in public education are the new Common Core standards and the national focus on Character Education. There is a reformation in public education that is occurring as educators return to traditional methods! The shift that is actually happening in education is what I heard people hoping for over the last two decades. Because I care deeply about education, I am excited by these developments.
Common Core is about raising the bar and exposing failures in local leadership and the classroom. It is a good thing to expect excellence, especially in our educational system. Common Core is not taking away local control and forcing schools to “teach to the test”. It is asking communities to earn the right to lead their schools. Communities, starting with the school boards, need to step up and push for better education of our kids.
Previous standards have had the horrible side-effect of teaching to the test. NCLB (No Child Left Behind) was especially guilty of this. Enormous emphasis was placed on very specific test results. The natural response was to teach to the test, the consequences were too severe to ignore. Common Core is specifically moving away from measuring only through test scores. A simple pass through the changes in school performance measurement from 2001 to today demonstrates this. See the links from my previous article to research it yourself. Those can be found here: (http://mmcneil.com/2013/11/stop-common-core/)
A note on that previous article: Simply put, the article titled “Stop Common Core!” was too negative. It was far more sarcastic and critical than it should have been. I am evaluating whether to revise it online or simply add a disclaimer to the top. Bottom line is that I have learned something in this process and that is a good thing! You can read about what I learned here: (http://mmcneil.com/2013/12/a-study-in-humility-phase-2/)
Character education has caught fire in our public school systems for good reason. Educators have come to realize these are an excellent foundation for personal growth. In Missouri we have one of the strongest initiatives in https://www.characterplus.org/. In fact, it is starting to be adopted far beyond our region. When you dig into it you can see the traditional values coming to the fore. Rather than look at the character piece (much of which is found in the Ten Commandments) I want to focus on the process. These ten essentials of the Characterplus process are listed on their website.
Character Education Policy
Identified and Defined Traits
Adult Role Models
Student Involvement and Leadership
Sustaining the Program
What I see when I look at this program is a reformation of values that I want to encourage. The education community is seeing character as important. I do not want to miss a boat that is heading where I have been hoping we will go for a long time. I will borrow from my scouting background in that I think most people agree that children should be taught to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. This program sets the foundation for doing just that.
School is a place that should be free from indoctrination from any perspective. The part of this program that I appreciate the most is the focus on representing the values of the local community. This enables the character of the local community to be instilled in their children. This is very important for long term community health and growth. As we see in our circles, community bonds can run very deep and help sustain us in hard times.
Personally, I am excited by these developments in public education. This is coming in the face of much that is negative in our society today. My care and concern for the families in America urges me to support public education. Public schools educate the vast majority of our future leaders, and this will not change in the near term. Teaching is a profession that requires very hard work. It is even harder to do it at a very high level. While change and growth are imperative, we must provide the support our educators need. I will not throw away a generation of children or educators for political reasons. I believe this is not representative of the mission I am called to.
Whether you are striving to find good educational options for your own children, or pursuing other personal goals, I would encourage you to continue to support bettering public education for the children around you. As a young man famously asked 2000 years ago, “Who is my neighbor?”.