Education and Community: The collective wisdom|
of teachers, parents, and members of our community.
Education is center stage. The clamor is for better education, competitive education. The President has provided leadership for better education and has acted on his rhetoric by putting education on the national agenda with Goals 2000, challenge grants, Kickstart, and in the ten principles from his 1998 State of the Union message. The states have been involved since the 1996 National Education Summit at IBM, with a push on raising standards and with implementing technology into the curriculum. America is seeking to heal itself, revitalize itself, reawaken itself through education. The community is rallying around education. Everyone wants to be part of the education reform movement, especially as we enter the next century.
In a democratic society, one must consider the power of the people. This is what Riley is considering and demanding. He is asking that the people of America pitch in and help, get involved, act. In this sense, values become the driving force in reform.
Hochschild certainly raises many points about popular control and values. "Popular control ensures that people in power know and respond to the interests and preferences of the rest of us." (Hochschild, p41) This notion of community involvement as seen on the issue of desegregation is resurfacing in education once again. What was popular control in the 1960's in regard to desegregation in schools may become a new popular control movement in the 1990's in regard to bettering education. That certainly seems to be the case as one surveys the climate of this country. The recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll "Of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public School" tells us this. The President has challenged us on this. Popular control generates better teaching. This is an idea extracted from Hochschild's concept of popular control:
Finally come pure normative arguments for popular control, and here we return to the connection between democracy and liberalism. Participation in governance is an element of freedom and autonomy, as well as the best means of keeping government attentive to the pursuit of private interests. There is much more to say here, of course, but we can at least agree that if one believes in "rule by the people" one begins by endorsing popular control of government activities and actors. (Hochschild, 1984, p 42)
Here then is a battle cry for the reformers of education: "rule by the people." A conclusion to be drawn from the story of desegregation is that the education of the people should be done by the people. If we hear the clamor for national testing, then national education should not be far behind. So now we must consider how this will be accomplished. Telementoring is one way of opening all of the doors of all of the schools to all of the people.
My research supports this idea of "popular control." It suggests to me that the new "popular control" will be telementoring. Four questions were asked of my 57 students on the survey addressing this matter.
The consensus among students is that telementors are useful and agreeable as seen in a roughly 70%+ approval rating on all four questions. This correlates with their parents idea of outsiders influencing their education and is inversely proportionate to their teachers' feeling about outsiders. Keeping in mind that it is the students who should be the focal point of of education reform and not the adults, it is a clear message, to me, that telementoring has a positive effect on students' academic performance and indirectly on matters such as violence, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and dropout rates since the students now have a positive attitude about themselves and their academic performance. This new found knowledge could be the basis of further study and could support further use of telementors if a correlation between telementoring and student performance and high school completion can be found.
In the January 1998 State of the Union Address, President Clinton provided us with values in his Call to Action for American Education, which is based on 10 principles. (Clinton, 1998) That he called them principles implies values is interesting. His first point was the matter of national, not federal government, standards and he asked each state to adopt high national standards. Here is an external force affecting the micropolitics of school. He continued with his other points: bettering the teaching force, using volunteers to tutor, providing learning to newborns and emphasizing family life, giving parents choice, adding values to instruction, improving the infrastructure of the schools, stressing learning across a lifetime, and providing access of the Information Age to every school. The substance of the President's message is community must be involved with education because communities hold the reins on values. Dovetailing on his wife's notion that it takes a village to educate the child, the President has now made it a national challenge. My research supports the importance of the community educating the child.
One method used to predict success or failure of an idea is to create a simulation or a scenario. The purpose of studying scenarios for the Global Business Network was to help make the future of education more visible and to consider the importance of values in educational policy making. By examining certain trends and projecting into the future, reformers believe they can gather insight into modes of action. The four scenarios they created were developed from trends in education today.
In my survey to my students, I offered a scenario of my own.