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NBC Hosting Education Summit: Can we stop bashing education?

21 July 2010 10,954 9 Comments

NBC News is convening an education summit in September.  “The two-day ‘Education Nation’ event in New York will be carried online, and is part of a week of programming concentrating on education issues on NBC News broadcasts such as “Today” and “Nightly News,” and the MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo TV networks,” according to the AP story.

It is great that such a powerful media giant as NBC pays attention to education. Given the reach of NBC, this can be a very big deal for education. What will be said during this summit and on NBC’s various programs could have tremendous impact on the public’s view of education.  This is a timely event as American education is at a critical moment as the nation moves toward more centralization, standardization, and testing.

I hope NBC will use this event to help shift the national discussion about education to the right direction by discontinuing the tradition of bashing American education at summits like this. Don’t just get a group of politicians, business leaders, or academics to say how bad American education is. We have heard the message many times for over half a century. Since the 1950s, American education has been proclaimed to be worse than others’: from the Soviet Union to Japan, to Singapore, and now China and India.

Instead, I hope NBC would attempt to answer the question: if American education has been so bad for over half a century as some would make us believe, how come the U.S. remains the most innovative and competitive nation and its education system is being emulated by countries around the world, especially the ones some fear would outcompete the US such as China?

Furthermore, I hope NBC would focus on the issues truly critical to American education such as the increased power and expanded authority of the federal government in education, national standards, and test-driven accountability. The media have been dominated by supporters of more standards, more centralization, and more testing, while voices of an alternative view are rarely heard on mainstream media.

In essence, what I would like to see NBC do with this great opportunity is to stimulate a national conversation about what kind of education America needs, instead of simply endorsing what is politically popular at this moment. As I wrote in my recent book, Catching Up or Leading the Way: American Education in the Age of Globalization:

American education is at a crossroads. There are two paths in front of us: one in which we destroy our strengths in order to “catch up” with others in test scores and one in which we build on our strengths so we can keep the lead in innovation and creativity. The current push for more standardization, centralization, high-stakes testing, and test-based accountability is rushing us down the first path while what will truly keep America strong and Americans prosperous should be the latter, the one that cherishes individual talents, cultivates creativity, celebrates diversity, and inspires curiosity. As we enter a new world rapidly changed by globalization and technology, instead of instilling fear in the public about the rise of other countries, bureaucratizing education with bean-counting policies, demoralizing educators through dubious accountability measures, homogenizing school curriculum, and turning children into test-takers, we should work on informing the public about possibilities brought about by globalization, encouraging education innovations, inspiring educators with genuine support, diversifying and decentralizing curriculum, and educating children as confident, unique, and well-rounded human beings. (p. 198)

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9 Comments »

  • Charlie A. Roy said:

    I’m curious as to why the default setting for parents or our nation is to blame schools for every social ill that comes down the pipe. I’ve enjoyed your work and have shared your book with our board members and staff.

  • Carol said:

    I urge you to contact NBC if those issues that you want to be discussed have an chance of actually being discussed. It is my understanding that such personalities as Secretary Duncan, Bill Gates, Newt Gingrich, and Al Sharpton are invited and confirmed guests. I am well aware of their collective “perspective” on public education-and am concerned that it will be a week-long corporate charter school, anti-teachers’ union, pro-standardized testing to make our students “competitive in the global economy” propaganda.
    Please consider contacting NBC-many of us in public education whose sensible voices have been ignored-would greatly appreciate any effort you put forth to speak out through a national media market about the issues you have presented here.

  • Ken Mortland said:

    Charlie: “default setting”? That’s a great analogy and so true. Given that fact, is it likely this NBC thing will be anything else? We’ll see.

  • Michael Walker said:

    Dr. Zhao, I agree with Carol above. YOU should be one of the panelists.

  • Robert Picou said:

    Finally! A voice of reason! How can we help get your message out?

  • NBC Hosting Education Summit: Can we stop bashing education? | Ecology of Education said:

    [...] (This post was originally published on Yong Zhao’s education blog.) [...]

  • David B. Cohen said:

    Most media coverage of education has become almost worthless, a tiresome repetition of the same political talking points and bromides from the same old tiresome cast of characters. And all we’re going to hear is that charter schools and KIPP schools are doing it, and it’s time to stop making excuses, and it’s about the kids, not the grown-ups, and if we can just get teachers and unions to stop defending the status quo everything will be okay.

  • Peggy Sheehy said:

    Greetings Yong and Readers- I most emphatically agree that your voice needs to be a prominent one in this NBC conversation. I am eager and armed to put any and all immediate energies into helping to bring that idea to fruition. Please consider this a priority and say the word!

    In friendship and respect,
    Peggy Sheehy

  • Mrs. Teacher said:

    Well folks. All your thoughts are nice but way too much rhetoric in the house. I teach in an at-risk ghetto area in the Southwest. I am qualified to teach in two languages, English and Spanish. I lived and studied in both Spain and Mexico.
    Now, I have over ten years experience teaching in two states in the Southwest. I have taught Kinder to Adults. Currently, I teach Middle School English. (Forgive any grammatical errors I’m on a roll).
    So, I kindly invite you all to attend one day with me. My demographic is mainly poor Mexican kids, a few Natives and Blacks and a handful of white kids.
    I know from experience, the Mexicans- language barrier or not- are perfectly capable of learning English as my husband did at age 19 fresh from Russia. So let’s get rid of the redundant and useless ELL programs. Next, what about the overpaid Principals and Admin? They walk around the school awkward and overbearing yet never seem to offer a hand or any leadership. By the way, why are Principals making triple digit salaries when 3 months into the year I just received my class text books. Maybe he could loan me the money?
    Oh and you should also all get your “teaching certificate”. hahahahaha
    I think that’s where the stupidity is indoctrinated from the get go.
    Teachers? Let’s talk about “No Child Left Behind”. Not the Bush crap, but the true No Child Left Behind that is supposed to go on in our classrooms everyday. I allow NO clowns or droolers- but it seems that everyone else in the state does because how can I time after time get a 13-18 year old group of kids that don’t know how to use dictionaries, write a sentence or even THINK? Does anyone know the resistance and anger I receive when I sneak around the crappy system out here (instead of shoving the mandated curriculum down the kids throats), risk losing my job like Elie Weisel in Night sneaking bread, while I actually force them to THINK.
    The suicides and hangings will continue sadly. There is zero leadership in most schools and NO thinking going on at all. I know that makes up about 80% of the schools in my state. Not the privates or the high tax areas of public schools but on the whole. Any one want more information? Michelle Rhee and I have spoken a bit in the past. She seemed to be on the right path but stepped down. It ain’t about us people it’s about the KIDS. Are we adult enough? Are we brave enough? Do we have the courage to teach or are we frauds that allow bullying and sleeping and disgusting things to happen on OUR watch? Step up you Principals and if you’re burnt out, get a new gig or retire to Mexico. Go into classrooms. Fire the ineffective boring robotic teachers that hate their job. Stand up to the parents that raise the bullies and help them learn how to parent effectively. Teach the families how important learning is. But if thinking is taboo- let’s just continue to re-invent the wheel. Let’s innovate ourselves into a third world country because that is where we are headed folks. Obese, diabetic and stupid. But, oh! Innovative?

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