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Can you remember the names of your elementary teachers? I may be a bit weird, but I do. I even use some of them on occasion for passwords to online accounts. Although I remember some from high school, those elementary teachers have really stuck.

Why is that? I suspect it is because they had/have such an impact on my life.

Grades One – Six

My first grade teacher was so very nice; the second grade teacher was very strict, and many did not like her (I did); the third grade teacher was the quintessential “old maid” school teacher who was dedicated to her students; the fourth grade teacher – you may remember her – I mentioned her once before because she sent me to the principal; she was young and after my super third grade teacher, a real let down. Fifth grade was another single career lady, who just happened to be my neighbor!

I cannot remember my sixth grade teacher – either of them. I think, because for me it was a traumatic year. For the first time in forever, our school system built a new elementary school. Sadly, I lived in the area that was assigned to the new school. They transferred us during the Christmas break. I doubt any of us had ever gone to a different school. To this day I can’t imagine what they were thinking – moving us at that juncture!

Comments by Will Richardson

But back to the topic – power of education. A few weeks ago I read an article by Will Richardson that he posted on his blog, willrichardson.com, “Is there a more apt example of ‘doing the wrong thing right’ than in our schools?”

In my short blogging career, I have touched upon several of the points that Richardson made in his article. Also during my masters’ pursuit, I had discussed several of the topics with my classmates. In most instances I was a majority of one who held the belief.

For those of you who have been with me from the beginning of my little venture into the blogosphere, you know I have commented frequently on formal education being pushed down upon younger and younger children. This is a decision I personally question. Early education is so important and it should leave a long, positive impression.

Richardson on Drucker

However, as with so many things if one doesn’t adapt, they (or their children) get left behind. In his article Richardson quoted Peter Drucker, “Peter Drucker said, ‘There’s a difference between doing things right and doing the right thing’.”

Richardson went on to explain, “Doing the right thing is wisdom, and effectiveness. Doing things right is efficiency. The curious thing is the righter you do the wrong thing the wronger you become. If you’re doing the wrong thing and you make a mistake and correct it you become wronger. So it’s better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. Almost every major social problem that confronts us today is a consequence of trying to do the wrong.”

(You may need to read that quote a few times to really understand it. I did!)

Pulling It Together

In education “we” have been trying to do the “right thing.” When I refer to “we”, I’m talking about those in charge of formal public education. “We” feared not being first in the world. So “we” decided that educating children at a younger age, imposing one standardized test after another to measure learning and later expanding that to include determining how well a teacher was doing was the correct path.

“We” also decided that the local school boards and state education departments were no longer smart enough to educate their children, so the U.S. Department of Education was founded.

“We” changed the physical structure of school buildings, and when that didn’t work, “we” changed them back ($$$$$). “We” brought in business to run schools because if business is successful, then naturally they can make education successful.

The Result

A mess! And a growing population of children who are home-schooled and generally have proven to be better educated than their public school counterparts. More non-credit courses at the college level to prepare students for college than ever. And that, of course, just adds to the ever increasing college debt.

This is not the fault of the teachers. They are at the mercy of the administrators, who are at the mercy of the politicians who are controlled by money.

What Now?

I wish I had an answer. I don’t, but I do know that to continue on the current path is not the way to go.