“Education Nation” Conversations

The purpose of TSVOTEP is to start a philosophical conversation about what it means to be educated. Although that conversation is an essential first step to improving education, Americans are more interested in watching Education Nation and Waiting for Superman.

Until what it means to be educated is defined in an inspiring, useful way; education will not improve, no matter what is watched, read, or attempted. This blog “cuts the crap” from the NBC series, Education Nation.

Education Nation crap — Movie makers, actresses, football commissioners, insurance CEOs, archbishops, politicians, school district chancellors, secretaries of education, television commentators, entrepreneurs, teacher union representatives, teachers, administrators and parents have insight into how to improve public education. We should listen to their stories.

Cut the crap — We already know some schools and teachers are good, some are mediocre, and some are bad. How many times do we need to hear stories about this? And how much should we pay attention to the opinions of people who rarely go into schools, and don’t teach in them? A website commenter said it best: “The proposals brought forth do not reflect any knowledge of what actually goes on in schools today.”

Education Nation crap — Actress Cheryl Hines, Curb Your Enthusiasm, had multiple opportunities to plug School Pride, her new Friday night show.

Cut the crap — Despite the rhetoric, these shows were more about politics and making money than about improving education. At this very moment, every school improvement idea mentioned in this series is floating off into nothingness, but we have School Pride on Friday nights.

Education Nation crap — Public school teachers, administrators and parents traveled great distances to participate. If they were lucky, they had 3 minutes to say something meaningful about improving education.

Cut the crap — Now that they are home, do they feel used? When they are sufficiently humbled by this thought, they should read TSVOTEP and be reminded of why they are still devoted to improving American education.

Education Nation crap — One group of panel discussants agreed to two-minute time limits. The first panelist (Democratic California Congressman George Miller) went on for 3 minutes and 40 seconds, the last 100 seconds while the red light was blinking.

Cut the crap — Don’t listen to the Congressman’s words (they had no bearing on improving education, anyway). Watch what he does. He is a politician modeling the six vices of our uneducated human nature. He was ignorant of the warning light system. His incompetent imagination told him 3 minutes and 40 seconds was like two minutes. His character was so weak he could not stop himself from talking. He was fearful of not getting all his talking points in. He was proud of wanting better education. And he selfishly took time meant for others.

Thanks to Education Nation, in the person of Congressman George Miller we have nationally televised evidence of the fundamental failure of America’s schools. Congressman Miller received an education based on the teaching of knowledge and skills, not virtue. The results matched perfectly.

(All who have presented at academic paper sessions have had this same experience — presenters who take time meant for others. In other words, the most knowledgeable and academically skilled graduates of our colleges and universities, like Congressman Miller, lack imagination, strong character, humility and generosity. The failure of American K-12 students to score high on multiple choice tests is a small failing compared to the lack of virtue among those who earn PhDs. The second failing is probably a cause of the first. How could it not be?)

NBC promoted Education Nation as a series about education. Every time Cheryl Hines was on camera, though, it was obvious the series was really about ratings for its new show. NBC hosts and commentators should have been ashamed of their network, but they seemed ignorant of the pride and selfishness that was evident to all of us who asked, “Why is Cheryl Hines on a show about improving education?”

Furthermore, those who are among our most educated citizens (movie makers, actresses, football commissioners, insurance CEOs, archbishops, politicians, school district chancellors, secretaries of education, television commentators, entrepreneurs, teacher union representatives, teachers, and administrators) never once mentioned the six virtues of the educated person. As long as people with all the school advantages this country has to offer define “educated” as a random combination of knowledge and skills, public education will not improve. On the other hand, as soon as teachers and parents model and teach the six virtues of the educated person, public education will improve.