Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'm Not the Only One Who "Gets It"

What I Get

In American Fork last week a teacher asked me about something one of my supporters is saying. There's a letter from Oak Norton, who definitely is one of my supporters and has been for a long time, in which he said that Tim Osborn is the "only one who gets it." This teacher was wondering about that, and she was a little miffed, because she thinks she "get its," too.

She really does get it. Like many teachers and others, she understands how things are working in the Alpine School District, including some things that are going very well, and a few things that are not.

Oak's statement was unsolicited, but I think I know what he meant. I told this teacher that I'm the only one on the current Alpine School Board who thinks that the board, not the district administrators, should determine the goals, values, and educational philosophy of the district. I've tried for years to start serious, public and private discussions of these matters, but I keep being told that such discussions would undermine the administration.

Some Others Get It, Some Don't

Conversations between those who get it and those who don't often lead to frustration.

The other day, an administrator somewhere in the Alpine School District asked a parent, "Who's the most influential person in your child's life?" What would you say?

This mother said, "I am."

"No," said the administrator. "It's the teacher."

This is almost unbelievable to parents and others outside the education establishment. There's a real philosophical difference here. The school board needs to address such philosophical issues and see that the people's philosophy prevails in the district.

A different district administrator recently expressed his puzzlement to another parent in the district, that parents are not content to have the school system pick its own mission, vision, and values.

Once again, the basic problem here is philosophical. You might say it's a question of who works for whom.

With that in mind, may I try to be philosophical for a minute?

Who Works for Whom?

In the United States of America, we understand that political power ultimately is held by the people, who delegate it in limited amounts to various levels of government, including school districts. They elect their representatives, including school board members, to lead these governments.

The first thing this should mean in the Alpine School District is that the people's elected representatives -- the ones the people hired and, every four years, can fire -- should be the ones leading the debate and finally setting the district's educational philosophy, goals, and values. If the school board refuses to lead this way and insists on following the administration, the people are mostly cut off from the government which they created and empower, and which is supposed to be working for them.

Among other things, this disconnect helps explain why it took so long to get Investigations Math removed from district classrooms, even though thousands of parents and many teachers knew it wasn't working well, and even though the State of Utah finally disapproved its use as a primary curriculum. There's a longer story here, but this problem could have been solved years earlier or even avoided, had the school board simply taken charge of the district's goals, values, and philosophy in behalf of the people.

Simply put, the public schools belong to the public and should be led, especially philosophically, by the public's elected and accountable representatives on the school board.

I said most of this to my teacher friend. She seemed happy with with my explanation.

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