We really do not have an economic crisis with respect to school funding in Alaska. We can easily produce the funding necessary to maintain our schools to the extent we decide is appropriate, and as I have mentioned elsewhere (http://opinion.alaskapolicy.net/pardonme/?p=250) the arguments over “sustainable” budgets is largely a smokescreen.
What we do have is a fundamental failure to communicate, and this failure manifests itself among the political elite, the educational elite and the general population, the target of our education policies.
At the political level it has been clear from some time that few if any share a common vision of what education is, and there is a lack of a shared vocabulary with which to even discuss this. I mentioned to Senator Gardner almost a year ago that before trying to discuss inflation-proofing education, she should first attempt to realize a common sense of the nature of education with her colleagues, and while the Legislature has wound its way around lots of issues, I have yet to see any reconciliation as to just what education means.
In the educational world, there is so much Sturm und Drang regarding “reform”, “testing” and so much other nonsense that rational discourse is pushed to the margin. While the concept of data driven decision making is an important one, what it has produced is the manufacture of drivel used to drive policy that the data simply does not support, as well as inadequate research run up this or that flagpole to press one ideological point or another.
But worse by far is our failure to communicate effectively with the general population, the folk who are frankly dubious about the entire idea of education, in no small part because it seems to them, based on what they hear from the elite, that education “is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”
I stopped short in my tracks when I first heard mention of the need for a “culturally competent healthcare system”, largely, to be honest, because I am unnerved by the concept of a racially segregated health system. But the concept does not address so much cultural medicine, as recognizing cultural barriers to medicine. What are the linguistic,m cultural, socio-economic hurdles to facilitating a healthy population.
And it was then that I realized that we have the exact same issue with respect to education. What we have is really not an economic problem but a cultural problem, and if one took the literature about “culturally competent healthcare systems” and replaced “healthcare” with “educational”, we would have a rather complete picture of the problems we face in education today.
While I certainly have a well defined vision of what an education is and why it is necessary, I am just as certain that others in my community don’t share my views, and many think that what I see as necessary for everyone is a ridiculous waste of resources. While some wax smarmy and opine that “the stupid is strong”, that only reinforces the arguments of those who don’t see the inherent value in education, or perhaps more accurately, don’t share Ms. Smarmy’s views. And their arguments are grounded in the economics of our State, where everything especially our politicians, are for sale, and someone who flunked out of high school can brag to their kids that an education is over-rated and is not feeding or clothing them.
It is time to put aside jargon and ideology, to ask Ravitch and Chavous to take a pill, and to actually discuss like intelligent and rational creatures what kind of society we wish to see and how we intend to achieve that society. Then we can invite those who wish to establish a theocracy to emigrate to an emirate and those remaining can then get down to brass tacks and pay for what is needed instead of hurling mindless one liners about as if they actually meant anything.