The Jeopardy Syndrome Has Taken Over Education
Education is a hot topic in the media, with as many solutions as seem to be available in the creative mind.
Rarely does a day go by that someone doesn’t do a piece on how education could be improved. We all seem to have the answers, without developing the question. That’s why I call it the “Jeopardy Syndrome” — creating the question to match the answer, as they do on that quiz show. We see solutions such as longer school days, a longer school year, better teachers, and a focus on standardized testing, and the list goes forward.
During my 41 years in education as a teacher/coach, department head and administrator, I have witnessed multiple changes, with the outcome designed to improve the education of our children. I have seen walls taken down for the open concept, changes in the curriculum, and leadership development programs to give our schools direction.
How can we develop all the answers without knowing what we are trying to improve?
Part of the problem is the resistance to change.
Everyone seems to want change, but what I hear them saying is they want you to change, not them. As soon as change is presented, walls go up, minds close and everything stays the same, which sounds a great deal like our government at times.
What I would be proposing is a group of people from various backgrounds to join forces to create the question, “What does it mean to be educated in the United Stated in 2011?”
Naturally we think classroom productivity, but is it that simple? Often we think a college education is the answer; yet who will be the plumbers, and the electricians? Who will care for the elderly, build our roads and repair our roofs? Is it as simple as informational consumption, or have we forgotten many aspects about education that are equally important, if not more so?
Our curriculum includes teaching about the parts of our body and safe sex, but have we spent time on relationships, and on how to deal with people? Do we spend time on personal integrity? If we look at the young people in areas where large sums of money are awarded by developing skills in athletics, movie productions or the music industry, only to see these celebrities on the front page because of a lack of character education that would enable them to handle such fame, who is really at blame?
Even the lottery winners seem to lack the necessary skills to handle such a giant change in wealth. Is money driving the educational changes? President Obama, in his State of the Union Address, stated that our children should attend college so they can get the “best” jobs. By the best jobs, does he mean the ones that make a lot of money? Is happiness in life even considered? Is our drive for greed steering the educational ship?
We speak about education as a goal to achieve, to win the game. The goal is often set by a handful of adults who create standardized tests. They determine where the goal line is placed; our job is to make sure the children cross it. We the adults make it clear second place is not acceptable and the United States must be on top.
Education is a lifelong process, and the focus of many educators has faded under pressure. Being responsible for almost all aspects of learning, while feeling alone in this arena where the charging bull takes many forms, has caused educators to lose the joy for making the decision to become a teacher.
When young people see the joy in learning, I see healthy, well-adjusted, enjoyable children. When learning becomes competitive to an unhealthy point, I see children cheating, lying, plagiarizing and stressed to the point of committing violent acts and eventually quitting. The parents of these children are torn between winning and loving.
Because we have many different definitions for being educated, we have many different styles of schools — each created to give the children some type of perceived advantage. We will always be reaching for the unreachable because the goal has yet to be defined.
If water is flooding your home and the plumber comes and repairs the problem, then goes back home to a loving family, has outstanding integrity and is a positive force in his community, is the plumber educated? When Obama made the earlier statement, in essence he told approximately 70 percent of the American people, your job has little value because you have not received that piece of paper, a university diploma.
I believe there are common skills to recognize in an educated person. You could probably add to this list. The ability to communicate effectively, problem-solving skills, creative thinking, and personal integrity are just a few. The Hyde School, in Maine, operates on the premise that if you teach students values such as courage, integrity, leadership, curiosity and concern, then academic achievement naturally flows.
The Jeopardy method of having the answer, then creating the question to match the answer, only works for a television show.
Michael Wyman, who has homes in Pinehurst and Venice, Fla., has 41 years of experience in education, having spent most of his career as a principal/headmaster. He now works as a consultant for educational institutions.
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