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A Legislator’s Thoughts on Student Success: Oregon’s Lew Frederick

10 October 2014 9,004 2 Comments

Representative Lew Frederick has served in the Oregon House for the past five years. Before that, he was a teacher, a reporter, and a district administrator Oregon. “He has witnessed how manufactured crises, extreme deprivation of resources, and radical overhaul proposals work together to repurpose public education in a way the public has not voted on.”

Thoughts on Student Success

By Lew Frederick

I often say we’ve spent too much time trying to slay dragons and not enough on building castles.

What would the education castle look like in twenty years if we do, not a perfect job, but a very good job now? What will the kindergarteners of today be doing at age 25 and beyond? How would we recognize success?

Describe some part of the impact on our economy, our culture, our politics, our environment both built and natural, our lives and aspirations of a successful education enterprise, looking back from 2034 to now. How do you think we got there? How would you describe this successful system?

Describe our young adults in 2034 and the world they live in. Are they prepared to solve the problems that aren’t problems yet in 2014? Then describe the elements of an educational system that got them there. School buildings, teachers, resources, and curriculum. If you ask them what about their schooling fed their success, what would they say? Remember, I’m not talking about utopia here, just a world in which we’ve done a very good job.

This is the conversation we should be having.

Now imagine that 20 years have gone by and our education enterprise has gone badly. Not that there has been some kind of worldwide cataclysm, but that we have made many bad decisions and the young adults of 2034 are living the consequences.

We do have this conversation, in fact it feels like we’ve been stuck in it for 20 years or longer. But not as a systematic conversation about what works and what doesn’t, but as lurching from one perceived crisis to another, and one proposed quick fix to another.

What will members of the current generation of schoolchildren be doing when they reach their twenties and thirties? I’m not just asking about what they will do to earn their living, although that’s important. I’m also talking about how they will participate as citizens, how they will raise their own children, how they will process the information bombarding them in order to make decisions in our Democracy. Will they be literate enough in the skepticism and the urge to verify that characterizes science to avoid manipulation by junk science and snake oil salesmen? Will they be literate enough in math to avoid manipulation by bogus statistics? Will they be literate enough in history to appreciate lessons our society has already learned? Will they be able to follow a logical argument, and will they be able to make one? Will they have the capacity to appreciate the many wonderful things created by human minds, hearts and hands? Will the wisdom of the ages inform their lives? These are some of the questions that trouble me.

And I believe these are some of the questions that have to be asked when we talk about planning for good educational “outcomes.”

Bio:

Representative Lew Frederick has served in the Oregon House for the past five years. He and his parents were involved in Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

He taught at Portland, Oregon’s Metropolitan Learning Center, before embarking on a 17-year career as a television news reporter. He was the Director of Public Information for the Portland Schools, the largest school district in the state, for 13 years, as “education reform” began to take over. He has witnessed how manufactured crises, extreme deprivation of resources, and radical overhaul proposals work together to repurpose public education in a way the public has not voted on.

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2 Comments »

  • Jeff Strang said:

    I agree; I’ve been troubled about what seems to be change for change’s sake in the educational system for quite some time as well — as you say, “lurching from one perceived crisis to another, and one proposed quick fix to another.”

    I’ve got a neighbor who graduated from high school (a couple of years late) this past spring. She looked for a job this past summer, and we tried to encourage her to go to college, such as PCC (we’ve got $5000 in her Oregon College Savings Plan account), but she isn’t a go-getter, so fall term’s passed her by. Unfortunately, she was raped a couple of years ago, which probably has had a big effect on her motivation.

  • Lon Jones DO said:

    WE wish you success in re-visioning Oregon education. It takes a different kind of thinking than the mechanistic one we all seem stuck in. Quick solutions come from obvious fixes to our mechanical analyses, but they seldom work in the long term. Blood letting did a very good and observable job of reversing the redness, swelling and pain that represented too much blood. When we finally learned to ask the right question we learned that more people died. Thanks for asking the right questions about education.

    Our approach is to look at the agents and how they adapt. Threats and a fearful environment, think multiple tests in a school environment, promote defensive adaptations aligned on ones individual survival. The way forward needs some of this, but more effort looking at diversity. This alignment comes more often when subjects are empowered to play with enriched elements in a safe environment. If public policy would make small positive changes in these elements we could and should trust the process.
    Good luck

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