Thursday, March 9, 2023

In 2023, what is the WHY for Public Education in the United States?

There are those who believe the WHY of public education in the United States is to provide all children with equal access to a quality education that prepares them for college, careers, and active participation in a democratic society.  The overarching goal is to ensure that all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential and contribute to the betterment of society. Achieving these goals is a daunting challenge because there is not equal access nor clear consensus as to what a quality education is, what it means to participate in a democratic society, reach a person’s full potential and contribute to the betterment of society.


As we enter the 2024 election cycle for President of the United States, the message emerging from the right-wing conservative ecosystem is distrust of teachers, elected school boards, and what is being taught to children. The left-wing ecosystem is protective of public education and its progressive perspective trajectory. Neither side is looking for common ground, with the young caught in the middle, receiving mixed messages.  This is not healthy. 

Teachers feel this frustration. Educational thought leader and change agent, Will Richardson, titled his November 22, 2022, BIG Question Institute Bi-Weekly Update, “What is our Calling In Schools Now?” He takes a global perspective that calls for schools to reflect on “what the world is trying to be”  He asks the hard questions: “Why do schools exist today? What are the collective needs they serve? What needs should they be serving?” To move forward we need conversations addressing these questions that build consensus. 

Top down or bottom up?

JC Bowman, executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, brings focus to Richardson’s questions. In Bowman’s op ed “What is the Why for Educating our children” Cleveland Daily Banner, February 2, 2023, he rhetorically asks “Do we educate for the sake of the child? The family? Educators? Businesses? Government? Society?” He goes on to say that “How you answer the WHY we educate question will determine what policies you will embrace.”  Each of the filters Bowman identifies (child, family, educators, business, government, and society) have unique challenges, requirements, desired outcomes, and responsibilities that look differently at the local, state, and national level. A bigger question to be answered is who and how is this funded?

Taking a good hard look in the mirror.

The current condition of public education is that not all children have equal access to quality teaching and learning.  Access is dependent upon a Zip or Area Code, financial resources, and the dispositions of teachers, locally elected Board of Education, and community members.  Dissatisfaction is evident today with parents organizing, calling for vouchers, charter schools, and demanding change and options. 

Today, Public Education’s emphasis on college and careers equates success, fulfillment, and happiness to being gainfully employed. Grounded in a 20th century industrial model, time on task, system design, the outcome is conformity and mastery of prescribed content, measured by standardized tests. The historical belief was that a college degree is the golden ticket, and that parents and students were willing to bear the burden of crushing future debt by assuming student loans to get it. The chilling reality is that a college diploma does not cleanly translate into being gainfully employed, and therefore, saddling young people and their parents with massive student loan debt is not a financially sound strategy.   


Public education is great at producing consumers of content and not necessarily creators of content. Sadly, content consumer skills become less critical every day, while today’s Information and Interconnected Age, requires critical thinking skills and the ability to access, discern, and apply information to real world predictable and unpredictable situations. Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) programs, like Project Lead the Way (PLTW), show potential but are viewed in schools as standalone activities. They are not integrated but taught in addition to the regular curriculum.


For the entire 30 years of my professional career, I’ve witnessed the constant conversation about the “Industrial Age School” and how its design runs counter to the emerging “Information & Interconnected Age.”

Dr. Trace Pickering, co-founder, executive director of Iowa BIG 


Schools are designed to Indoctrinate Children.

Each, and every school across the United States indoctrinates children into society. Local, state, and national cultural norms, traditions, and beliefs are introduced, practiced, and communicated to children, deliberately and subliminally. At one time this was a shared responsibility between the home and the school. For the past 20 years ``home” has evolved to include single parents, joint custody, blended families, and children being raised by grandparents. With children spending 8+ hours in childcare and schools, many parents and caregivers defaulted to schools to teach civility and civic responsibilities. The impact of the COVID pandemic and the resulting school shutdowns reengaged home with schools but also amplified political polarization and the questioning of norms, traditions, and beliefs to be taught, stressing home-school trust. This relationship continues to fracture. 


What do we want the world to become?

Student experiences in schools can reshape the world.  Schools can empower and shape young minds to define what society is and plant seeds for what society could be. What we want the world to become is directly connected to Will Richardson’s question “What is our calling in Schools now?” The answer must be multi-dimensional and respond to the stakeholders JC Bowman identified: child, family, educators, business, government, and society.  It also needs to include the examination and evaluation of current structures, protocols, practices, and funding mechanisms for viability.


Mr. Bowman insightfully summed everything up, writing It is time to ask ourselves, “Why are we, as a society, educating our children?” If we gain clarity on the “Why,” much of the remainder will fall into place.”


Saturday, February 4, 2023

The Failure To Teach U.S. History

The Failure To Teach U.S. History.

Full disclosure: the first part of my education career I was a high school government and history teacher. I remain to this day fascinated by stories from the past and how patterns of life repeat.


My concern is the degree to which we have learned from past failures, accomplishments, and achievements.  Looking back over my four decades in public education, my reflections, and observations of mankind seem to indicate that in some ways we have grown and evolved, but in other instances we keep doing, or going back, to what we have always done. I continue to try to make sense out of this push forward and pull back. 


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana, The Life of Reason 1905


The conundrum of American Education and the teaching of United States History is that the facts remain the same, but the interpretation and presentation of the facts change with each generation as each generation’s context changes. The context for interpretation is impacted by the norms, beliefs, traditions, and political objectives of society at that time.   What would be true, acceptable, and appropriate in 1955, would not necessarily be appropriate in 2023.


It seems Americans have a desire to focus on accomplishments and achievements and not necessarily on the shortcomings, misdeeds, mistakes, or failures. The tendency is to gloss over the negative and only lift the positive.  This thinking is directed by the local, state, and federal government and is reflected in the textbooks used in our Nation’s schools.

Any deviation from the theme that “the United States is the greatest country on earth” is met with extreme pushback.  The underlying thinking is, “How could we be the greatest country on Earth if we have made mistakes?”


My thinking is you learn as much or more from your mistakes and shortcomings as you do from your successes and achievements. Both need to be presented and learned from. 

I have in my personal library several textbooks that have been used to teach US History over the years: The American People, David Muzzey (1934), The Great Republic, H.A. Guerber (1899), The History of the United States Told In One Syllable Words, Josephine Pollard (1884), and the textbook I taught from The Rise of the American Nation, Liberty Addition, Lewis Todd, and Merle Curti (1982). Each book tells the story of America, but in each, the story is interpreted by the context and norms of the historical period in which it was written. Very interesting. In comparing the four, it is easy to pick out bias, stereotypes and dated perspectives.


In the final pages of Muzzey’s book The American People, he lifts themes that happened then that we are still hearing today!


“The Foes of our Own Household. This rich and powerful Republic has no fear of foes from without. But there are dangers that threaten within.  We are a wasteful people in the midst of our abundance, consuming the resources which we should be conserving for a future generation....


Strikes and lockouts, preventable illness and accidents, unregulated production, faulty distribution of our abundant wealth, have resulted in the unemployment of a large percentage of the manpower of our nation.... 


More than three million people a year are made sick by food adulterations; another million are drug addicts; and one knows how numerous are the dupes of patent medicines, cure-alls and beautifiers which have made us the victims of the gaudiest collection of quacks in the world’s history....


Our preoccupation with material success threatens to blind us to the values of patient, honest cultivation of mind and character... If we had the enviable record of leading the world in economic prosperity, we have also the unenviable record of leading the world in recklessness, instability, and crime....


The number of suicides mounts steadily (20,088 in 1932) ...


The number of divorces granted in the United States was 56,000 in 1900 and 191,591 in 1930 – or one divorce for every 5.9 marriages in the latter year.” 


In 2023, in the United States, we hear of domestic terrorist and threats from within, the importance of our consumer society and Green New deal initiatives, supply chain failures and worker shortages, obesity, drug addiction, and weight loss gimmicks, and an uptick in suicides and divorce. Parallels between 1934 and 2023, separated by eighty-nine years, are evident.


It seems like we are repeating the past.


Going forward, it is crucial that students are presented with information that is historically accurate, and within the context of that time, not through the lens of today’s norms. Only by having a true and accurate picture of where we have been and what we have done can good decisions be made on where we are going to go and do. Providing the factual story of us in context to students, prepares them to chart and navigate our future.

"The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate thier own undertsanding of thier history"

George Orwell

A nation that forgets it past has no future.

Winston Churchhill



Friday, December 9, 2022

Public Education in the United States: Its time for hard conversations.

Tennessee is a true reflection of the United States. The educational challenges we face here are no different than other states across the Nation. Rural realities, urban realities, poverty, abundance, internet access, digital resources, economic challenges in addition to the changing child raising family structures of mom and dad, two moms, two dads, blended and single parents are part of the equation.  The post COVID questioning of historical, legacy institutions and beliefs, ranging from faith, religion, and democratic ideals add to the instability.

As we move into the 2023-24 election cycle, rhetoric about K-12 public education is ramping up. There is no doubt that over the next 24 months, discussion on K-12 public education will grow to a crescendo.  Both outside and inside, teachers, administrators, school boards, parents, community members, local, state, and federal elected officials, all seem to be voicing concern and frustration.


On the outside looking in...

The success of Glenn Youngkin’s election to Virginia governor, running on a platform of rooting out the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in public schools, to Mike Pompeo calling the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, "the most dangerous person in the world"  to Fox’s Pete Hegseth’s book, "Battle For The American Mind", advocating a “revolution to save our children in public schools from leftist indoctrination,” reflect a loss of faith and confidence in our public education system.

Parents and community members are concerned with “learning loss” due to the COVID pandemic and worry about their children’s preparedness to enter and contribute to society. Elected local and state officials are concerned about economic growth, and community wellbeing. The ability to compete globally, and our Nation’s defense is directly tied to the education of our young people. If Public Education is the bedrock of a healthy society, how healthy are we?


On the inside looking out...

Those who work within the public schools feel stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. Veteran teachers truly want the best for their students, but are tired, feel underappreciated, and are burned out. The Georgia Department of Education commissioned the University of Georgia to study Teacher Burnout. The report, published in June of 2022, not only identified salaries, but cited the need to Preserve and Protect Instructional Time, Pressures and Unrealistic Expectations, Teacher Voice and Professional Growth, along with the need to address Mental Health and Wellness as key contributors to teacher burnout. These conditions are not unique to Georgia but can be found here in Tennessee as well as across the country.


 Gimme one about the teacher who's

Tryin' to change a life or two...

Where kids are climbing off the walls

It's scary walkin' down the hall

She's underpaid, she's overworked

Come on, man, shout one out to her!

Eric Church, “Put that in your county song”


Principals are anxious, tired, and stressed as well. Instructional leadership and student achievement, building operations, school climate and navigating community politics, are burning them out. Principals, as well as superintendents, are having to deal with staff shortages and funding as well as navigating the post COVID political landscape. A Superintendent’s tenure average of 5.8 years, coupled with Board and community relationship challenges all add to the uncertainty and instability.  


 “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” Accept change before the change is thrust on you. If people don't perform, they perish. If companies don't innovate, they become obsolete. Jack Welch


All these signals reflect that the rate of change is accelerating exponentially. The question is can current practices, structures, procedures, and policies adapt to new realities and expectations? As a teacher and administrator for over 40 years, I have experienced the attempts to reform education. Beginning with A Nation at Risk (1980-1989), standards-based education model (1990-2000), No Child Left Behind (2001-2015), and Every Child Succeeds Act (2016-2021) there is question as to the successes of these initiatives. When you stop and think, what is different between schools of 1987 and school today?


Realizing new realities and conditions?

Larry Arnn, Hillsdale College president, wrote “Raising a child has always been difficult and expensive. With rare exceptions, it has always been true that the parents who conceive the child raise him the best. And throughout American history, it has been thought that the family is the cradle of good citizenship and therefore of free and just politics. Public education is as old as our nation—but only lately has it adopted the purpose of supplanting the family and controlling parents.” (Epoch Times, Nov. 22, 2022) Instead of blanket statements, there needs to be discernment as to why this condition arose in the first place.  When  37.6% of all marriages in the US end in divorce  and 50% of all children in the United States will witness the end of their parent’s marriage, the problem is much bigger than just the schools. 

It’s time to take a hard look in the mirror.

What is the purpose for public education? During my 40-year tenure it seems this has been a moving target. With working parents dropping their young children off at before and after school programs, how much time does the family spend together? How does this reality match up with Arnn’s comment that “Public education is as old as our nation—but only lately has it adopted the purpose of supplanting the family and controlling parents.”  Who, lately, has been spending the most time raising and caring for the children?


Let’s us, Tennesseans, be the first to begin the hard conversation, with inclusive dialogue of all stakeholders. What truly are all the challenges facing us? What do we want Tennessee to be and what do we want for our children?   




Friday, November 11, 2022

Public Education in the United States is not a people problem, it is a system problem.

JC Bowman, Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, recently posted an editorial entitled Building a Better Pipeline: New Teacher Corps. The focus was on the teacher shortage happening in Tennessee, and the crucial need to address the issue. I have the greatest respect for Director Bowman and agree with him that we Tennesseans are facing a human capital challenge, but Tennessee is not alone.  Every state in the Union is struggling to recruit and retain teachers. 

Recruiting Teachers
Tennessee State and local leadership recognizes the teacher shortage and is pragmatically seeking solutions. Federal government TEACHER grant programs, Tennessee Promise, Grow Your Own, and the creation of a New Teacher Corps can provide funds and pathways to becoming a teacher. But the challenge is motivating individuals to choose to become teachers in the first place.

Retaining Teachers

The challenge of retaining teachers, and the teacher shortage has been a growing problem that has accelerated as an aftershock of the COVID pandemic.  Education Week, April 27, 2022, shared that “survey data paints a picture of a disillusioned, exhausted workforce that feels burdened by a constantly growing workload – and disrespected by the general public.”


Teachers are the difference!

Director Bowman is correct in stating “When it comes to educating a child, nearly everything is contingent on the quality of the teacher in the classroom. Teachers make a difference when it comes to the academic performance of students.”  The fact of the matter is that teachers are being asked to do more than just teach academics.


Education Week shares that “As a teacher, you’re more than just a teacher. We’re parents, friends, we’re counselors... And sometimes it’s at the detriment of our own mental health and our own stress.”  For retaining teachers, the question becomes how are veteran and “new to the profession educators” supported by their districts?  For recruiting new teachers, are University teacher preparation programs preparing future educators for these realities?


I have the greatest reverence and respect for those who choose to become teachers, but in today’s dynamic environment, I understand why many are choosing to leave or make a different career choice.


Public Education is not a people problem, it is a system problem.

Tennessee’s 141 public school districts all face the same challenge, recruiting and retaining teachers. The challenge prospective teacher candidates face may not be the pathway to becoming a teacher, but the reality of working in a school or school district, designed for the 20th century, tasked to educate and prepare students for the 21st century.  The disconnect is the system, not the people.

New Thinking

Author Danial Pink, in his book Drive (2009), shares that “while carrots and sticks worked in the twentieth century, that’s the wrong way to motivate people for today’s challenges.”  Author Simon Sinek in his book Start With Why (2009) identifies that motivation is linked to purpose which is defined by the “Why.” He goes on to state that most companies and organizations can state “WHAT” they do, “HOW” they do it, but few can truly articulate “WHY” they do it.  Mr. Sinek writes “most organizations or people think, act, or communicate from the outside in, from WHAT to WHY. And for good reason -they go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. We say WHAT we do, we sometimes say HOW we do it, but rarely say WHY we do WHAT we do.”


“Pump the Breaks”

In Tennessee, as well as across the country, there’s lots of discussion on “WHAT” K-12 Public Education is. There is a plethora of scientific research and practice on “HOW” to teach young people, but the “WHY” of public education in Tennessee, and across the country, is indeed fuzzy.


Yes, it is important to address the teacher shortage, but it is equally important to go deeper and discern WHY this is happening. What are the contributing factors? Is the focus for teachers to be academics? Is it to be a pseudo parent? A counselor? And if it is to be a counselor, what kind of counselor? One that addresses Social Emotional and mental health or be a college recruiter or career counselor.  


In Tennessee, the State Collaborative on Reforming Education SCORE is doing impressive work and is a valuable resource for collecting data to support their desired outcomes that:

  1. All students receive an excellent public K-12 education. (with success defined as outcomes on statewide assessments and National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores.)

  2. All students earn a credential or postsecondary degree.

  3. All students are prepared for a career that enables economic independence.

  4. Across all goals, all students have equitable opportunities for success.


Test scores, workplace credentials, college degrees, economic success, with equitable opportunity seem more like “WHAT” public education in Tennessee is, not necessarily “WHY”.  There seems to be something missing.


What do other data points tell us? How does a 12.2% divorce rate, one out of six Tennesseans living below the poverty rate with 18.8% of children in poverty impact child development and academic achievement? With 13% of Tennessee children on Special Education Individual Education Plans (IEPs), 11.3 % high school dropout rate, with a rise in bullying and school violence, it appears student needs go deeper. How does this impact the “WHY”?

Higher teacher compensation and working conditions is but part of the equation. Consensus defining an inspiring, real “WHY” for public education needs to happen first. It is the foundation to build out from. Without a clear “WHY” public education becomes a wasted experience of superficial learning, memorizing meaningless knowledge.


Public Education in the United States is not a people problem, it is a system problem.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Public Education Is Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Public Education Is Between a Rock and a Hard Place

I appreciate the feedback and viewpoints many of you shared in response to my blog post, Public Education: Battle Lines are Being Drawn. THANK YOU!


It is my belief that only by coming together through meaningful debate and dialogue can we reach consensus on what teaching and learning is to be and its role in society and civilization. With the “why” defined, then the next steps are to design the processes, policies, procedures, and desired outcomes,
along with identifying the means to financially pay for it. In short, define the purpose of public education, discern what does not work, rise above the current discourse, look over the horizon, and envision what could be and should be. Comprehending this means realizing that public education in its present state is between a rock and a hard place.

Showing what is possible in the future 

helps us better deal with what’s hard in the present.

                                                                               George Couros  


Against the backdrop of everything happening in our world today, it is hard to look objectively at public education, particularly in the United States. As I have said, family, relationships, religion, public education, commerce, business, industry, and governance, once the bedrock of society and civilization, are now being reflected upon, questioned, and evaluated. Factoring in political polarization, recent Supreme Court rulings dealing with abortion and gun rights, emotion, not logic, is engaged. There is this feeling of chaos as we struggle to realize that change is happening.

Chaos Is a Condition of Growth.

Chaos can be described as a human feeling of disorder and confusion. This happens when there is a deviation from predictable behaviors or outcomes. These deviations occur because of interactions, experiences, or breakthroughs of new knowledge, resulting in changing context, condition, or outcome. “The destruction created by chaos is necessary for the creation of anything new.” (Leadership in the New Science, Wheatley. P. 119)


Within the theory of chaos there are underlying patterns, interconnection, constant feedback loops, repetition, self-similarity, and fractals, all moving toward self-organization. Great emotion is generated in struggling to recognize emerging norms and let go of old predictable behaviors and outcomes,


As we try to apply 20th century industrial system thinking, morality, and beliefs to new 21st century conditions, dispositions, and realities, many are experiencing extreme disorder and confusion. What was and what we have always done does not fit with what is and what needs to be done. For some, these feelings of disorder and confusion are causing great angst and fear; for others, excitement and hope. These powerful emotions of angst, fear, excitement, and hope, felt in chaos, are generating the human energy which will result in change and transformation.


“Life seeks order but uses messes to get there.”

                                           Margaret J. Wheatley


Margaret Whitley’s book, Leadership in the New Science. Discovering Order in a Chaotic World (1999), identifies many emerging themes and conditions for navigating through chaos. Her belief is that historical thinking on leadership and system design is based on mankind’s understanding of science. Mankind’s previous thinking of cause and effect, linear, top-down driven, supported by data and charts, defined the world by lines and boxes. The presumed result for society was predictability and order. The coming of new knowledge in technology and science, now accelerating exponentially, is stressing long held beliefs, causing disorder and confusion. For many, it is difficult to let go of what was and seek new because no one has had to do it for many generations!


The Butterfly Effect and Chaos

Part of chaos theory is the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect is the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. Think of throwing a large rock into a pond and it sends out ripples across the water, hitting against the shore, creating intended and unintended consequences. This illustrates the complexity and interconnectedness of the world. 


Rick Smyre, in his book, Preparing for a World That Does Not Exist - Yet (2016), identifies minute localized changes within a complex system as “weak signals.” He states that few people notice these weak signals or recognize their potential for disruption and challenge to the status quo. They do not see the waves of change coming. So instead of catching the wave and surfing, society, as well as public education, are now gasping and struggling to catch up.  


Multiple Weak Signals Hitting At Once.

Technology, relationships, the environment, and systems of governance are some of the weak signals that are now emerging, causing chaos. The result is that of mankind experiencing stress as we move from stability to instability and from order to disorder. Historically, mankind would have addressed each of these separately, but the reality today is that all of these are connected and interdependent, and need to be responded to collectively. 


Cell phones, computers, social media, the Internet, and other technologies are connecting mankind together in never before seen ways. This interconnectedness is contributing to the stress, disorder, and confusion of not only current institutions and organizations, but also communities and individuals. It is redefining quality of life, work, business, and industry.



The decline of organized religion, specifically Christianity, revisioning of family, and definition of oneself is impacting societal morality. Multiple generations living and working together at the same time each have their own beliefs on relationships and family. Nostalgic relationship patterns of grandmas and grandpas married for life conflicts with mom and dad patterns of divorce, and young adults living together or just “hooking up” dilutes the ideals of commitment and intimacy. With relationships being redefined, unacceptance is generating judgment, guilt, anxiety, and fear. Empathy and tolerance seem to have slipped away. All of this is contributing to the disorder and confusion, and subsequently impacting schools and public education. 



Besides technology and interpersonal weak signals, the mistreatment of Earth resulting in climate change, is now sounding alarm bells. From earthquakes to droughts to sever storms, flooding, tornadoes, and hurricanes, Mother Earth is showing symptoms of alarm and sickness. These weak signals must be realized and responded to.



“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed.”

Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776


“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, 1787


The creation of systems, governances, policies, and laws is necessary for the establishment of societal predictability and stability. In the United States, the Declaration of Independence and Preamble to the Constitution provided the rationale of why governments need to exist, and from the consent of the people, the power and authority to govern. Political polarization and the demonization of political perspectives is exasperating, creating fear, paralysis on reaching consensus, and impacts the ability to govern. This discourse is also reaching into classrooms and schools. 


With technology integrating into every aspect of life, the question of relationships and how we interact with one another, the impact of Earth’s climate change, and the interpretation and operation of governance are all contributing to the chaos and instability. Each of these weak signals is fluid, flexible, not yet fully defined, but building in energy. The ability to navigate in these conditions, see the interconnectedness, and realize the possibilities needs to be instilled in all, especially the youth. Public education, or some other system of learning, could be the connective tissue that empowers students to access, discern, and manipulate knowledge, and create new knowledge to solve real world problems. The ability to adapt, learn, unlearn and relearn, as conditions and context change, is crucial to the survival of mankind.


Public Education is Between a Rock and Hard Place.

Those within the public education system, the teachers, administrators, and school board members, are in a no-win situation. Emerging weak signals are coupled with the design flaws of an educational system that was designed 100 years ago with the goal of conformity; going to college, entering society, and participating in the consumer society are stressing.


Public education today equates learning to prescribed amounts of time and sorts students by age, and was not designed to individualism, personalization, or differentiated instruction. Student academic achievement is measured by high stakes, standardized tests, with letter grades - A, B, C, D, F - assigned by a percentage of content memorized. Assessment of student learning is dependent on the student’s ability to recall facts and not necessarily mastery or application of content. The ability to think and apply knowledge is not evaluated. High achievement is recognized, and students are sifted into winners and losers. Dissatisfaction and criticisms are growing with public education.


For some time now, in numerous books, articles and social media, school reform and the purpose of public education have been the focus. Books like The Battle for the American Mind (Hegseth and Goodwin, 2022), Unshackled, Freeing America's K-12 Educational System (Bolick and Hardiman, 2020), and Unschooled. Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside The Conventional Classroom (McDonald, 2019), as well as articles in Education Week such as What is the Purpose of School? (September 2021) detail the shortcomings in public education. The Public Broadcasting System documentary, School of the Future (2016), shared evidence-based instructional techniques, addressed how students learn, stay motivated, and get engaged, and envisions what schools could look like based on up-to-date scientific research. From all this, nothing much has happened. Public education continues to resist change and remains in its silo. The voice and energy of the dissatisfied are growing.

“The indoctrination of our children’s minds is happening as early as preschool.”

Parents: Get Back In the Fight. Do Not Outsource The Raising of Your Children,

Cissie Graham Lynch, Decision Magazine (2022)


In the United States, most everybody has had an experience of school and learning, and yet when asked, cannot articulate why they learned what they learned. To go forward, we must let go of the myth and memory of public education, and discern today’s mission and purpose for public education, and simultaneously, determine how it is to be funded.


Defining the why, designing a flexible system of learning to accomplish it, and figuring out the means to pay for it, will move public education away from the rock and the hard place it is now in.