Tilting at Windmills for No Apparent Reason

Several months after my retirement from Education at the end of 2014, while idly poking about folders on my hard drive, I came across dozens of documents I had prepared that were related to various aspects of my work as a teacher, curriculum and assessment specialist, high school principal, and state-level bureaucrat. Sifting through them, I felt the need to share those documents that I believed addressed some of the significant reasons why American Education was failing to meet the needs of those students who most needed a sound education, and I did share via a blog: Education Follies.

In time, I realized that what I needed was not the opportunity to share because I knew little would come of it; instead, I realized I needed to reflect on my career. That insight inspired me to select and assemble blog posts and edited historical documents from my personal archives into a memoir of sorts which shed light on the over forty years I had spent tilting at educational windmills for no apparent reason. In other words, I compiled the memoir solely for my own edification. It has turned out that I needed to understand what I had experienced and learned over the previous decades before I could look toward what might be on the horizon.

If you choose to peruse a free .pdf version of this memoir–Education Follies: Four Decades of Tilting at Windmills for No Apparent Reason–I hope you may find things that are enlightening or reinforcing. Underlying it all is my belief that there are no reasonable excuses for failing to teach millions of our children.

When I retired in 2014, there were many metrics that certified too many students were not learning to a worrisome degree, and if there is no learning there has been no teaching, just educators tilting at windmills for no apparent reason. Effective education is not rocket science. There are literally thousands of pieces of research and other sources that tell us what should and can be done to increase student achievement. Bob Marzano is one of many Boomers in Educational Research who have contributed significantly to that body of work; unfortunately, my experience (my non-scientific sample of one) has convinced me that at the moment when I retired, too many (most?) educators had been choosing to ignore what the research has been proclaiming for years.

Was it because we lacked the shared compassion and will to do the right thing, which has always been to ensure that all students are provided with real opportunities to learn? Or have those in positions of cultural dominance and power just not given a damn about those who are the victims of History? Likely, it is both.

If we were a truly compassionate people who cared about others regardless of their race, ethnic background, or economic status, if all teachers practiced what we’ve learned about motivation and instruction, if educational leaders cared more about making a difference than they do about making a career, then all children would be receiving the education that American Mother Culture professes is the promise of equality of opportunity. At this moment in our history, that promise—as it has been during my entire career—is an undeniable and immoral lie for millions of our children.

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If you are interested in moving beyond the scattered educational wastelands we Boomers are leaving behind, you can access through the Internet a wealth of interesting approaches to learning. One such approach is DIY GENIUS. This is not an endorsement from me; rather, I offer it as one example of the many intriguing, appropriate, and nontraditional approaches to learning that exist in our world today.

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Please consider visiting Jeff Lee Byrem Creations to discover additional literary endeavors such as the novels of the Myers/Benton Chronicles