I think about where we spend our money. We’re constantly trying to find easy ways out of holes, easy ways to scale metaphorical mountains. We look for processes to remove the chores of thought and decision. Education is floundering.

We lost our faith in teachers. It is every politician’s easy drum to beat- after all. “Our schools are failing! The enemies are at the gate!”1 Who would argue that our kids don’t deserve better? Both parties agree. Education is failing.

Our solution is not to work, to spend money and time on our teachers, to help them become better, instead we send our money away, spending precious time testing products of a system we insist is broken.

We buy software. We buy content. We buy external experts.2 We buy reputation. We buy “trust” and “quality” because we don’t believe either really exists in our schools.

Invest that money in our teachers, on smaller classes, on things that have been proven to matter.

Make teaching a career that isn’t based on martyrdom. Martyrs die flaming deaths. Systems based on them don’t last. There are no easy answers. You can’t buy, process, software, magic your way out of this.

There is no microwave dinner version of educational reform.


1 Don’t actually go to this site. I just liked that it was a warning site given the url.

2 Guilty of being bought and sold.

9 thoughts on “Invest

  1. Amen. It amazes me that for all the whiz bang boom initiatives to happen around K-12 in the past two decades, the extent to which teachers are valued, appreciated, challenged, and supported by their communities remains breathtakingly insufficient. I’m living in a state where our governor uses rhetoric to talk about the teachers in ways reminiscent of how the 19th Century Titans of Industry talked about mine workers who demanded a day off, all because their union is attempting to hold the state to its contract(s). Now, I have my problems with teachers unions and they way they operate, but the fundamental lack of respect for the work teachers do and the basic lack of a social framework for creating opportunities for them to succeed is a got-damn shame.

  2. It amazes me at how many times my school district has changed literacy and math programs to new bidders who claim to deliver the world to them. Some products claim to be the latest and greatest but we don’t give the things that we have a fair shake. I agree that we need to invest more in teachers to make the most out of what we have to work with instead of sending money away for different programs. I know that we have invested in new programs because they donated money into the superintendents political future, I don’t know how this is helpful to the teachers or to the students. Investing in the teacher will help them reach the students in new and innovative ways.

  3. We are pouring money into a product that competes with the industry of entertainment. Our population of consumers are sorely lacking in enthusiasm for an outdated, mismatched product. The money is spent to meet our clients where they exist. The overseers (parents/community) have scaled the walls of education from the parameters of “ancient” methods appropriate for their time period. The only way for the results to be seen across the board of student success is for the consumer to want the product. Commercial America understands supply and demand, however there is very little demand in education despite a surplus of supplies.

  4. @xeniuses If I understand you correctly, I disagree.

    If someone produced a high quality product that reliably engaged a variety of students and helped them learn (as opposed to memorize) then you’d make a fortune.

    To say there is little demand for this seems crazy. I know what our district spends on various programs and it’s is a considerable amount. We see tons of programs, tons of software and most of it is garbage. Some of it approaches mediocrity.

    Most educationally branded software is a poor watered down version of real software with comic sans and pencil clip art thrown in. Teacher and students can both handle more and deserve more.

    But the whole point of the post is that software won’t solve our problems. Investing in people will.

  5. To Tom,
    Yes you have missed the point. And yet you are right on the nose in respect to your closing comment. We should be investing in people, but the people that need the investment are the consumers of education – the students, and they don’t care for it… in some cases despite bells, whistles, font types, animations, gaming, collaboration, or cloud computing/Web 2.0. My point of the response is that we are seeing money thrown at a culture that is not fazed by our investments or threats. Time for a new tactic.

    1. Sorry about that. Your writing is a little hard for me to follow.

      So what is the other option? How do you invest directly in students? If you’ve decided money invested in teachers is wasted, what is the alternative?

  6. It’s not an option of Money, but rather responsibility. Students have not “buy-in” to the system as they have for the most part been kept from feeling the sting of their own actions. If it was a job … there would be direct “financial” repercussions for their work ethic. This should be our focus.

    Merely suggesting a shift from provider to consumer changes the perception of what types of products we throw Money at for their benefit. That’s how it “works” in the Real World.

    1. I’m not sure how repercussions with “sting” equal buy-in. I don’t see any correlation there. If that were the case, wouldn’t people be big fans of totalitarian regimes?

      It’s interesting you talk about about work ethic being tied to financial reward as that’s not how it works in education. I see weak veteran teachers getting paid far more than new teachers who work harder and do a better job by any standard. I’d also argue about correlation in the “real world” between effort and financial reward but that’s neither here nor there.

      I’m struggling with the second paragraph. If the shift is from “provider to consumer” are you saying teachers (formerly providers of knowledge etc.) should now be consumers? I can’t figure out any way that students could have been providers previously. Neither way quite makes sense to me.

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