Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Educational Change/Theory
The state of American public education today can often be viewed as outdated and ineffective. As the world around us continues to evolve and advance, our education system also needs to advance. While innovation has become decentralized from the United States, fantastic marvels in technology, transportation, energy, and other fields continue to emerge. Why then are we not seeing such strides and innovation in our education system? More importantly, what does a lackluster system for educating our youth mean for the security of all Americans?
Many of these questions and more are answered with the insight of Dr. Dwight Allen and Dr. William H. Cosby, Jr. In their co-authored book, “American Schools: The 100 Billion Dollar Challenge”, they tackle the problems of an outdated education system and propose reforms necessary to bring innovation into our classroom. Together they have produced a plan for our government to invest $100 billion a year to begin a “bold, unprecedented journey to redefine education, its structures, its goals, and its staff.” (Allen/Cosby, 10)
Theory of Change
Dr. Allen and Dr. Cosby’s theory of change begins with national commitment. If we are to safeguard our security, Americans must be willing to focus our efforts on a strong foundation in education. Our country has had the drive to invest enormous amounts of resources into science and technology because they are worthwhile investments that typically pay for themselves. (Brody) The American education system needs the type of funding and support from the federal government that is given to other programs, projects, and security costs. We must recognize that national security does not simply include the collaboration of intelligence, communication, and the military. Our other vital source of national security is America’s youth, who turn knowledge into innovation, innovation into productivity, and productivity into economic growth and prosperity. (Brody) The first step to making innovative changes in education is to rekindle the American drive and commitment we had in order to put a man on the moon and focus those efforts into educational research and leadership. (Allen/Cosby, 15)
At the forefront of change, Allen and Cosby have proposed the establishment of the National Experimental School Administration (NESA). The administration would consist of a network of experimental schools that allow for research. These schools are established voluntarily by local school systems and will become a large-scale laboratory for new ideas. A laboratory on the scale of an entire school would allow for more control in a research setting and as a result produce more credible innovations. An idea that becomes successful in an experimental school can then be adopted by regular public schools. (Allen/Cosby, 114-117) These schools, serving as large research centers, would also foster new talent and leadership in education.
“One of the biggest problems in American education today is ‘safe’ leadership.” (Allen/Cosby, 7) Allen and Cosby refer to a lackluster pool of teachers who still support outdated methods because they are “safe”. In order to harvest the innovation our education system needs, we require not only more educational leaders but effective ones that are willing to move beyond the “safe”. These educational entrepreneurs will help to break established outdated ideas and practices. (Hess) Through national support, NESA research, and our very own innovative leaders, we can begin to redefine education in America.
Example Areas of Suggested Reform
Allen and Cosby point out many areas in which we need educational changes, including the following:
- Produce More Prepared Teachers – This begins with the way in which we train and educate our new teachers. Often you hear about the poor quality of teachers in a school or the high rate at which teachers are leaving the profession. Allen and Cosby suggest that the year or less of classroom practice attached to a liberal arts degree is simply not enough. Among their ideas, teachers could join the ranks of other professions such as medical doctors, who spend extra time in residency practicing before becoming licensed. Teachers could then ease their way into the classroom over time with increasing responsibility. (Allen/Cosby, 86-87) Potential programs within NESA would provide for an ideal training ground for new teachers.
- Increase Classroom Resources and Technology – Effective use of technology has the ability to transform boring lesson plans into an interactive, engaging new discovery of information for children. As our society becomes more electronic and technology driven, many schools and children are left behind in a new information age. (O’Conner) If America has the courage to commit to the $100 billion challenge, half of the funding will be allocated towards spending for technology purposes. (Allen/Cosby, 111-112)
- Continuous Professional Training – With society growing and changing at such a rapid pace, it is imperative that teachers too continue to develop and change. This involves continuous training and education beyond the one day workshops. Allen and Cosby suggest that teachers should be in lifelong training. This involves continuously updating plans, procedures, and knowledge of technology. A veteran teacher of 29 years, Kathleen Baker says, “She feels like she's just getting a handle on the job.” (Blanchard) Experimental schools could help provide programs that would work to help keep teachers as learners. (Allen/Cosby, 108)
|“||Transformation of education won't be cheap, and it won't be without mistakes. Those mistakes will be costly, but we can and will learn from them. It will require courage and commitment.||”|
—$100 Billion Challenge
Allen and Cosby’s theory of change involves recognizing that society is not only changing, but changing at ever increasing rates. We have not reached a point where we can sit back and feel satisfied that we are doing our best. In fact, we will never reach that point because change is always going to be necessary. However, many changes are going to require a large amount of resources and work to bring us “back up to speed.” Some of these resources can only be supplied by the federal government, and thus Allen and Cosby have made a proposal for $100 billion to serve as the backbone for change. Other resources can only be supplied by the innovation produced from human ingenuity and hard work. NESA and the development of educational entrepreneurs can help provide a network of resources for research and training.
Multiple Choice Questions
Click to reveal the answer.
Click to reveal sample responses.
- Allen, Dwight, and Cosby, William H. American Schools: The 100 Billion Dollar Challenge. New York: iPublish.com, 2000.
- Blanchard, Jessica. "Teachers never stop learning -- even after 29 years on the job" 08 September 2005. http://www.seattlepi.com/local/239846_teacherbaker08.html
- Brody, William R."What happened to American innovation? The key is investing in education and research". Chief Executive, The. Dec 2005. FindArticles.com. 22 Sep. 2007. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m4070/is_214/ai_n15967020
- Hess, Frederick M. "Educational Entrepreneurship: Realities, Challenges, and Possibilities". Education Next. Fall 2006. FindArticles.com. 22 Sep. 2007. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0MJG/is_4_6/ai_n16832475
- O'Conner, Barbara. "Lack of technology putting schools behind." San Jose Business Journal. 04 April 1997. http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/stories/1997/04/07/editorial5.html