External Factors Forcing Change On Education: How Can They Work For Us ?

2879 words - 12 pages

External Factors Forcing Change onEducation: How can they work for us?I am very pleased with the opportunity to make some remarks at thissecond National Conference on Science and Mathematics Education Reform.Every participant here this morning is committed to change; each of youunderstands the need for systemic reform; and each of you has a genuinedesire to help America and its children grow in intellectual achievement.I can only admi re your efforts and urge you to persevere with yourdifficult task. Despite my disadvantage in knowing a lot less abouteducation than anyone in this room, I hope that I can offer some smallcontribution to your deliberations.My knowledge has been improved recently by the opportunity to visittw o schools from my own congressional district that are part of theCalifornia Statewide Systemic Initiative (SSI), called the CaliforniaAdvocacy for Mathematics and Science or CAMS. I will comment on some ofthe things I observed on that visit later in my remarks.However, I would like to focus my remarks largely on some of theexternal factors that are forcing changes on education. I have thereforetitled my comments, External Factors Forcing Change on Education: How canthey work for us? First, however, I would ask you to reflect for amoment on the term "educational reform." This term is so common in ourdiscourse that it has become "mental boilerplate." If, however, we pauseto consider each word for its genuine meaning, I believe we can discover aguiding principle for our work.Education means drawing out of you what is already in there, notmerely instilling something new. Thus our task must be driven by therecognition that each person comes to education with potential drawn fromhis or her own singular qualities, gifts, experiences, and culture. Ourjob is to help a child tap that potential so it can be utilized inmeaningful pursuits. It will never be enough to ask -- What shouldchildren in eighth grade science or math be required to know? -- and thenprepare to offer up those skills or meanings . It will be just asimportant to "draw from" and "draw out" the unique perspective throughwhich each child views his or her own world.The term reform means to amend or improve by change. Since reformmust necessarily take place in a dynamic, ever-evolving society, we mustrecognize reform as a process, rather than a movement which has abeginning and an ending. To be successful, reform must be continuous, notend-stopped. We can never think of any reform as permanently fixed orfinished. Instead, we must hunker down to a long-term task that willoutlive the leadership and participation of all of us in this room, andwill be passed on to our younger proteges, and then to their youngerproteges. This should not be interpret ed as a gloomy judgement of ourprospects. Rather, it should be recognized as the natural process thatreform should take.In the language of TQM, or Total Quality Management, we call thisContinuous Process Improvement, and it is...

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