Monday, March 21, 2016


[ …No, it’s not “Huge” ]


by Jeff Camp | Ed100 |

If you were to be reborn in California tomorrow, not knowing who you would be, what kind of school system would you want?

March 16, 2016  ::  Last year I hiked with my kids to a grove of giant Sequoias. These trees seem impossibly tall. You just lose all sense of scale.

Like Sequoias, California’s public education system is mind-bogglingly huge. There are far more schools than Starbucks, for example. More teachers than police officers, or doctors, or lawyers. Over six million students attend public school in California — about half a million per grade level. A school year consists of about 1,000 hours of instruction. In a single California school year, about 300,000 teachers oversee more than six BILLION hours of students’ lives.

Teachers and schools influence those six billion mortal hours. Class schedules and educational standards shape the choices teachers make. But in the end learning happens one student at a time, even one moment at a time. From minute to minute, hour to day to week to month to year, students experience their own accelerating lives for themselves.

So… if the most incisive word to describe California’s education system isn’t merely “huge”, what is it?

it’s EACH

The most vital work in schools is done by students. If school doesn’t work for them, it’s missing the point. Most people now agree that public education should provide a realistic ladder of opportunity for EACH student. This is a rather new and radical ideal.

Ed100 Lesson 1.7 describes the remarkable, brief history of American public education. Compulsory public education in America started little more than 100 years ago, when American states, following the example of European nations, banned child labor from fields and factories. From these roots, education grew into the sturdy trunk of the American Dream. The branches of this dream have grown to include opportunity for girls, minorities, immigrants, students with disabilities, students living in poverty and foster youth.

The vision for education has already evolved from “educational opportunity for some students” to “some educational opportunity for all students”. The next, very difficult step is to provide real educational opportunities for EACH student.

States and school systems have yet to really grapple with this challenge.

Students cannot choose their parents. They have no control over their race, or immigration status, or the financial conditions of their life. They have no control over where they live, or the qualities of the school closest to them. They have little if any influence over their own health.

If you were to be reborn in California tomorrow, not knowing who you would be, what kind of school system would you want?

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