All Know the Answer – Part III of III

The Number 1 Priority

By Jorge D. H. Prosperi, 2019

So that was the 1960s. So much has changed in 2019, right? How do young minds and teachers in 2019 address controversy and difficult issues that are part of their daily lives? How do they approach the horror and trauma of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas?

Do we ask our students to confront or avoid the divisive rhetoric about race, gender and immigration that is defining a presidency and a political party? Do students have the right as future citizens to discern honesty, honorability and character? How about the dignity and integrity of leadership? Or is citizenship and character a matter to be only home-church-schooled by parent(s), ministers, rabbis and priests?

It took a tremendous amount of fortitude and years to find ways to incorporate critical thinking methods that would allow students to address issues of justice, equity, oppression and citizenship via a critical discovery process. Teachers needed to provide the knowledge bases and pathways. New ways were constructed to allow students to come to their own awareness.

The significant non-controversial news is that the majority of teachers in 2019 urge critical thinking and critical research methods. They do it by emphasizing departmental critical textbook reviews. Language Arts is mapped and emphasized across the curriculum because LANGUAGE MATTERS with its fidelity to the truth.

Departments provide a host of perspectives via author/scholar/speaker series, school-wide discourse on social issues by extended diversity literacy conferences, film/documentary assemblies, multi-subject collaborations on specific issues. Coffee House poetry writing and reading expanding the number of different voices. Native and immigrant counter-story tellers share new vistas on history.

“Gosh . . . don’t think that Jorge is talking about my school!”

Exchange programs no longer only meant traveling to Europe. Local exchange programs give students from rural, urban and suburban districts opportunities to identify their specific community issues, then compare and contrast with those of others, face to face – of different color. Students coming to the realization that the complexities of the problems require citizens collaborating – perhaps to a greater degree than their parents. Some schools even dared to have overnight experiences where a student from Bloomfield Hills, Pontiac, Southwest Detroit and Grass Lake met each other’s families, live a couple of days outside their bubble – a chance to notice their shared humanity.

“Gosh . . . don’t think that Jorge is talking about my school!”

New clubs emerged at all levels such as forensics and debate teams. Teachers provided opportunities to visit cultural centers; African American History Museums, Holocaust Centers, Immigrant and Refugee Centers. Immigrant Lawyers defined the significance of pro-bono work. Doctors Without Borders spoke of the global need to improve the quality of life. Collaborative pen-pal programs reached across all continents. The power of technology unleashed critical lenses and processes by which to scrutinize each thread of knowledge.

“Gosh . . . don’t think that Jorge is talking about my school!”

The Liberty Bell was ringing loudly, but it also created fear by those who did not want to hear its toll and kept silent. Empowering students could mean empowering their citizenship and eventually . . . their vote.

So given the positive changes in education, why is America falling behind in areas like Math, Science and Language Skills?

All of us know the answers. But first, please take your labeled rural, urban suburban, Republican, Conservative, Democrat, Moderate, Liberal, Independent, Egalitarian hats off. Thank you! Please sit in any of the classroom desks. No name tags needed. We are all citizens. Now, please, please, I beg you – answer as if the quality of your child’s life depended on it – because it does.

First of all . . . thanks for stopping by the website . . . because all of your children have been asked to critically think, let’s begin with a few critical questions. We can do this! Let’s begin…

  • Do we really, honestly, unequivocally prioritize education as a society? Please think critically before answering – just like we ask the children to do, please pause and think!
  • Is early childhood education prioritized, required regardless of zip code?
  • When should formal schooling begin for all children regardless of zip code? Does it . . . should it ever end?
  • How are our schools funded for each child regardless of state and zip code?
  • Are all subjects funded equally across the curriculum?
  • Do we have unequivocal unanimity (not just every four years) by President, Senate, Cabinet, Congress, Governors and Legislators that Education is the nation’s first priority.
  • Do we have federal and state Educational Task Forces working together to assure ongoing prioritization of educational goals and processes? If yes, why? If not, why not?
  • Should non-public schools be funded separately – tuition-driven?
  • Should public and non-public schools be regulated the same as to curriculum, teacher certifications, endorsements and national teaching standards and practices? What about home schooling?
  • How are our Public Schools, its children and families, protected from politicizationprivatization – special interest groups and lobbyists?
  • What value as a society do we place on teaching as a profession?
  • What value do teachers place on the teaching profession as to their formal training, certification, teaching strategies and methods beyond content knowledge?
  • How do districts assure that regardless of zip code, all classrooms from Kindergarten through high school seriously address class size? Not by crunching dollars, but by what is ultimately – realistically beneficial for each child and educator to provide realistic opportunities to hear each other’s voices. How does a teacher listen to each voice with 25 – 30 students in a class?
  • Who determines class size in a school district? School boards, Superintendents, Business Office, Principals, Department Heads, Teachers, Union, parents, legislators?
  • What is the IDEAL class size per age group? Again, IDEAL – because our children are worthy of the IDEAL, regardless of zip code. Is it 10-1? How about 15-1 at most? “Impossible you say!” Why?
  • Do all teachers, regardless of grade, have quality time during the day to plan, organize, collaborate, even imagine what is possible?
  • Do teachers have assistance and support by school counselors, school psychologist, school nurse?
  • What about Leadership? What are the roles of principals and assistant principals in 2019? What support do they receive from Superintendent and School Boards? Who mentors the mentors?
  • How do schools address curriculum mapping? Is the mapping connected to 21st Century Skills, national and international standards and norms?
  • What can teachers learn from the International Baccalaureate Program as to curriculum and teaching strategies?
  • What is the relationship of school districts to University Schools of Education?
  • Are there partnerships between Public Schools and Colleges as to ongoing teacher professional development, student teacher programs and new teacher mentorship programs?
  • When does college counseling begin, who leads the program and process? When should college counseling begin for students and parent(s)? What about students who wish to delay or not attend college. What are meaningful alternatives? What is the student-counselor ratio? How often do counselors and parent(s) get to meet?
  • Should access to Public Colleges be tuition free regardless of zip codes? Should the same apply to Public Junior Colleges and Trade Schools?
  • Do all schools, regardless of state or zip code have equal access to technology, IT personnel and the internet?
  • It is said that teachers teach minds . . . what about brain-based learning and teaching? What about brain-based classrooms?
  • What about learning spaces within a school – within a classroom?
  • Is Diversity Literacy mapped across the curriculum as it applies to our Constitution, Democracy, Republic, Rule of Law and Justice.
  • How is Education connected to citizenship?
  • What responsibility do school boards, trustees, school districts, departments, teachers have to address citizenship across the curriculum from pre-school to college graduation? Is it just a matter of pledging allegiance in the morning and standing during the anthem?
  • What about Global Citizenship?

There is no longer a “neutrality commandment” holding teachers back. Kindergarten teachers through doctoral committee members in the 21st Century share in the process of discovery and pursuit of knowledge critically without restraints. The floodgates have opened universally – increasingly without the walls of status, class, and privilege highjacking or altering knowledge.

“Gosh . . . don’t think that Jorge is talking about my school!”

Unfortunately, such a reality continues to intimidate some educators, administrators and even parents. Regrettably, the education of our children continues to be a “CONTROVERSY” rather than our mutual Number 1 Priority.

What remains uncontroversial in the 21st Century is that all teachers, through their imagination, creativity, dedication, advocacy and audacity must teach with integrity and courage . . . the essence of our noble profession . . . and its calling . . . EMPOWERMENT . . .