FINCH: Education in the future

By Curt Finch

MOISD Superintendent

I recently had the opportunity to hear international speaker Jamie Vollmer, a former businessman turned public education advocate.

It’s always nice to be reminded of the breadth and depth of the American educational system. One forgets that from the early 1600’s to the 1800’s, education was only about academics and the eventual teaching of the foundations of a newly-formed democratic republic. Only since the dawn of the 20th century did the United States begin to sort students for the industrial age.

With this push, hygiene, nutrition, screening and immunizations were added to the school’s list of jobs. Prior to World War II, vocational and physical education were added along with transportation. During the ‘40s, specialties were added like business, music, art, drama, kindergarten and lunch programs. During the ‘50s, the space race with the Russians demanded more math and science; foreign language, fire drills, driver’s ed, and sex education also were added. The ‘60s saw Head Start officially begin for younger students and bilingual education, advanced placement, and adult education were added. The ‘70s brought in the first real push in special education, alternative education, and gifted-and-talented programs. Title IX changed athletic participation for girls and breakfast for students entered into the equation.

During the 1980s computers added to the pace of school as well as the curriculum. Typing/computer ed, abstinence ed, English as a second language, all-day kindergarten, multi-cultural ed, and more early education programs such as Jump Start, Early Start, and Prime Start! Pre-school and after-school programming began to be more universal. The 1990s saw the birth of the World Wide Web and technology take its foothold with the beginning of computer labs and internet use for students and educators.

School-to-work programs were formalized; distance learning, homeless and HIV education, special education inclusion and school security rose to the top of school board’s lists of topics. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act expanded the scope of special education and helped define the future of this discipline into what it is today.

The switch over to the 2000s saw the world worry about our computer systems shutting the world off (Y2K never happened). The global workforce and global competition became a part of the discussion for the following 13 years. The bi-partisan legislation, No Child Left Behind, was passed and ushered in a whole new level of student testing and teacher accountability.

Bullying prevention, internet safety, on-line learning, global awareness and student awareness education exploded; obesity, steroid use, eating disorders, suicide prevention, and health and wellness programs were added. Race To The Top and Common Core refocused the nation from “local control” to a more national approach to curriculum.

As our nation moved from academic education in its early years to include social training today, the school day or calendar didn’t expand much. The American educational system is still set up as a system for the agricultural society with different breaks in the calendar for crop planting and harvest. Our educational system, designed by Thomas Jefferson, was initially designed to sort students — he conjectured that America only needed 30 percent of society to be “educated;” it was Thomas Jefferson who stated we just need a system to “rake the genius from the rubbish.”

Today’s schools want, and are required, to teach everyone to 100 percent proficiency in all subjects, and especially on test day. With this increased responsibility on your local school, it’s easy to pass the job to them. Your local school cannot do that job without you. Education of today’s student takes a village! The better the school, the better the property values, the lower the crime rates and the stability of the workforce into the future increases to keep our national programs such as Medicaid going.

We also know emergency room use goes down as a primary care option, teen pregnancy goes down and positive student engagement with the community increases. American education has come a long way, but students and schools can’t go much further without your help. Get involved today!

Dr. Finch can be reached at cfinch@moisd.org and Twitter @CFinchMOISD