Three Reasons Why Our Education System Won't be Fixed on its Own.
October 22, 2014
The modern American education system is trying really hard. It wants to be better. It really does.
I mean, seriously, there are hundreds of thousands of teachers, from pre-school on up to the college level, working every day to do the best they can to educate our next generation.
But it has so, many, things that are getting in the way of change and improvement that it seems pretty hopeless. I am not being pessimistic. I am just calling it for what it is.
Here's the first reason:
There are private companies vying for the opportunity to take over failing schools, claiming they could educate our kids with better results. They have lobbyists that rig the system, and they are playing the long game, waiting patiently for their turn at the public trough that is Public Education.
It's a major blockade because it's a little devil constantly whispering in the ear of our political leaders, sucking the energy and life out of the process, with very questionable motives.
Reason number two:
We have a literal ARMY of education administrators who don't seem to have the ability to figure out what the right approach is to teach our rapidly changing youth population. There are regulations and so much red tape that teachers are literally bound to that it's a wonder that they can even walk.
It's not that these people aren't well meaning. But honestly, from a parent's perspective, and as an adjunct educator, it often feels as though these administrators are more interested in protecting their own jobs and repuation, playing it safe and protecting the status quo, rather than putting good options on the table and finding ways to make them work.
And when you put twenty suits in a room, it's very rare that you are going to get a lot of 'out of the box' thinking. That's just the way it is.
Reason number three:
The teacher's unions don't seem to be able to break the cycle either. (That's not the third reason, but it's a factor, definitely.)
This is the main problem:
Every idea that anyone comes up with, one faction or the other will gleefully rip it apart without even considering it for it's merits. It doesn't matter what you propose. The feasting on the guts of good ideas begins in the board room and the conference room and then moves to the cafeteria for lunch.
In short, it doesn't take a genius to realize that we aren't going to politically be 'led' to a new solution, or range of solutions. And the system that created these problems doesn't have the resources or the ability to fully perceive what is actually wrong with it's model, let alone come up with the answers.
For all of you that are teachers, know that I am not making this personal. I know there are great teachers out there, many of you, and some great schools, too. But with over 40 million kids needing to be educated in a better, or more effective way, we have a big, big problem.
All of this, of course, is pretty obvious to just about anyone who has an open mind, and can see how it's a perfect stalemate that offers only marginal solutions.
So, why am I writing all this?
I believe that nature and wilderness education has tools that would actually help and begin to shift us in the right direction.
But it has a huge, huge problem. Well, a number of problems, actually. But we can focus on two that are the first hurdles.
The first hurdle is how nature education and wilderness earth skills are perceived by the general public. And the school administrators. And the political leaders.
So, it's about perception, and value.
You see, most people think of nature as more of a backdrop from where they can workout, or just enjoy their daily lives. They don't realize the depth and importance that an understanding of the natural world can provide for us, not just when we are kids but throughout a lifetime.
As the baby boomers retire and pass on, we are losing our last generation that was born and raised with a strong natural connection. They get it, but what can we do at this point in time?
Changing these perceptions involves shifting the messaging in a series of steps, and that's a massive undertaking. But honestly, it can be done.
Which then leads us to problem number two.
If we are successful with the messaging, and sharing about the effectiveness and power of nature, the demand for these tools will quickly
outpace the current supply of existing naturalists, wilderness educators, instructors, camp counselors and program directors.
And this is important because training these folks takes time. It takes a lot of classes, intensives and training. It takes time to get enough experience, under the guidance of an experienced mentor, to work you through the rough patches, and not only learn the skills but also the people skills and management skills, and much more...
So, imagine if the demand for nature programs doubles, triples or multiplies by a factor of ten.
It would be like going into a supermarket an hour before a hurricane or a blizzard hits town. All you're going to get is a few cans of baby corn and some frozen peas.
And in their desperation to get their schools or programs helped out by a naturalist or skills educator, directors will be tempted to take untrained beginners to run their programs, with predictably poor results.
So, I will sign off with this, and say, if we are going to promote this connection to nature as a valued and powerful means to help our culture get grounded, we have to find a way to insure that we have a standard for our educators, and at the same time, find a way to train those folks in greater and greater numbers than we can imagine.
It's a big job, but we can do this... What do you all think?
My TEDx Experience
December 17, 2018
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