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Protecting Our National Security?

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As promised, I’d like to share with you some glimpses of my first full week – beginning my second now – as your Executive Director.  In this week in which I spent time reflecting on the cost of freedom by remembering those who perished, and those whose lives were forever changed on 9/11, I thought a great deal about our nation’s education system and our responsibility to educate all children.  I am old enough to remember that, in my elementary and middle school, we did not have children with special needs, other than one young man who walked with braces as a result of polio.  We did not have children who did not speak English either.  I can vividly remember sitting at the New York Public Library exhibit at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, glued to a chair reading The Hundred Dresses – one of the first children’s books that I would encounter that so clearly outlined the concept of bystanders, victims, and bullies.  I am also old enough to remember the Vietnam era protest marches, songs – anyone else remember ‘Find the Cost of Freedom’ by Crosby Stills Nash and Young? – and political arguments over what constituted freedom at that time.

As a result, I was truly struck by an article, and associated report, this week by  Michael Roth in response to the publication of a new report warning of dire consequences to our nation’s national security of the lack of a sufficiently prepared citizenry.  And, it uses one of my least favorite phrases of the current education policy vocabulary – human capital management.  I personally resent being referred to as capital to be managed.  Could just be me.  Here is a quote:

"Human capital will determine power in the current century, and the failure to produce that capital will undermine America's security," the report states. "Large, undereducated swaths of the population damage the ability of the United States to physically defend itself, protect its secure information, conduct diplomacy, and grow its economy."

Roth goes on to compare the report findings to other ideas posed as long as a century ago about tiering educational opportunity to the likely jobs that our students will hold in the future.  Again, could just be me, but my blood pressure rose as I read.  He reminds us of John Dewey’s intentions in envisioning a system of public education – to educate all citizens – and that the act of learning – the right to learn – is one of our essential freedoms.  Here is a link to the article, and to the report that prompted it.  Again, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Roth’s op-ed:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/06/opinion/john-deweys-vision-of-learning-as-freedom.html.  Report:  http://www.cfr.org/united-states/us-education-reform-national-security/p27618, left-hand side of screen, download full report.

Another report caught my eye as a result of  a research project at Pearson on the impact on teaching and learning of digital tools, particularly 1:1, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), flipped classrooms, and virtual classrooms.  This is an exciting project, and I’m proud to have NNSTOY now be part of it.  However, the rapidly moving world of technology was brought home to me forcefully by an op-ed in the NY Times last week by Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat).  In this column, Friedman talks about finding out that Estonia is planning to begin teaching computer programing to its first graders – and all other students to catch them up – in order to address a growing need for programmers.  This news prompted a response from England’s Guardian newspaper, asking if UK students should now be taught programing as well.  Friedman goes on to point out that the world of ‘work hard and you can do anything’ no longer exists; our message to our children should be ‘work hard, constantly reinvent yourself, and constantly be learning,’ sort of a new twist on the importance of life-long learning.  It made me think about the messages that we are sending to our students, and the tools we are using to teach.  In the Pearson study, we are looking at how the tools that we have on-hand today can impact teaching; in many districts, these tools are not even yet available on a large scale.  How do we prepare for teaching with tools that we don’t yet know about, and teach skills that we don’t yet know our students need to learn?  I have no answers, but the column made me think about these things.  What do you think?  Here is a link:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/opinion/sunday/friedman-new-rules.html?_r=1&ref=thomaslfriedman

Once our Web site is up and running, we will be holding discussions on articles and reports like these, facilitated, I hope, by some of you.  In addition, I will be asking our real bloggers – and new ones as well – to volunteer to provide blog entries as a regular feature of our site.

In terms of the work of NNSTOY, my first, full week was – full.  I attended the TQ Center conference, met with colleagues at the NEA, at CCSSO, at USED and will write reports of those meetings.  Suffice it to say that they were delighted to welcome NNSTOY as a potential partner and each meeting generated many ideas for how we STOYs might work with these organizations.

The TQ Center conference was outstanding, although I had to leave early as my husband mistook the stairs for the bathroom in the middle of the night, and took a nose-dive down the staircase; nothing broken, (well, the wall was), just lots of cuts and bruises.  Holly Boffy, LA STOY 2010, and currently serving as an Educator in Residence at CCSSO, was in attendance as well; I will be asking Holly for her insights for the meeting report.

In addition to many meetings, we began work on our branding.  Our new Web site firm, David Taylor Design, is at work on our logo and we have walked through extensively the process we will follow to approve/edit Web text and concepts.  If you are on the Communications Committee, you will be hearing from me this week as we put in place a structure for eliciting your input on the Web screens, logo iterations, etc.

In terms of research projects, Pearson, with NNSTOY as partner, held its first Advisory Panel meeting for the digital teaching project.  We met by phone with experts in this field, and received input on our study design.  We have also received our first contract with a participating school district and we will begin focus groups shortly.  Another project, focusing on using a new methodology called DSORT for compiling the results of observations, is undergoing an internal (to Pearson) piloting now and, as this progresses, the tool will be readied for external piloting.  NNSTOY’s Research Committee members, and others, will be asked if they would like to participate as things move forward.

For someone who is used to working with many colleagues, I must admit to feeling a bit lonely this past week at times.  However, many of you reached out to offer assistance, express confidence in my leadership, and just let me know that you are out there. I cannot tell you how important this is to me.  I have had emails from STOYs from the 1980s through 2010s; from American Samoa to New England; from retired teachers and relatively new teachers.  You have all expressed the same message – excitement for our revitalized organization, energy to get to work, and support for your Board and ED.  I was told by one DC-policy colleague this week that I am now a ‘bigwig’ – I begged to differ, saying that I am just a little wig with a big job.  I am thankful that you are here and willing to get that big job done.

Have a great week and thanks for all that you do,

Katherine




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