To the Interim Superintendent Just Anointed

For a long time now, as an observer with credentials—I was for 28 years a member of the faculty of the College of Education at UNR—I have watched the WCSD and interacted with WSCD people for the purpose of offering my expertise to create educational programs that are effective in helping students grow their intellectual potential.  Many things other than this have served as the real goals for this district and, truthfully, most others in the United States of America.  The problem of sensible goals is a critical problem, if not the most critical problem with education in the United States and, for our district—two of my kids are graduates of WCSD schools—for all the years I have watched it, rarely have the goals been properly student focused.  Instead of really watching individual students to monitor the development of their abilities to understand and make sense of the world in which they live, the goals have been to satisfy the business community, provide obedient workers, create compliant wards of power politicians whose agendas graduates of the schools will abide by rather than direct.  Test scores and graduation rates (and covering up the tragedy of the dropouts) and the protection of reputations—the district’s and those who work for it—have been first and foremost objectives, objectives that work against the accomplishment of meaningful goals for students.

I watched you testify today.  My hope was that your tears were for the disservice the district has rendered its students and the society in which they live by failing to live up to its promise to serve well the needs of each and every student.  I have observes a perverse lack of concern for students when their bests interests got in the way of keeping face, meeting the often absurd requirements imposed, making look good those who are actually responsible for what is bad.

The recent and now well publicized disfunction in the district, like other such episodes, blinds people to the dysfunctional reality that is the district’s regular state of being.  I could pull up an article for each month of the past 10 years or more that shows dysfunction and inept and insincere attempts to deal with it, most of these attempts to push away or push out of sight the bad and the wrong.

I suggest this, that in the coming month, as you may only serve a few months as superintendent, you lead a meaningful investigation into the forces that actually shape what actually goes on in the district and what the effect of this is on students, teachers, district employees across the board, and the community.  I recommend an unflinching investigation into what drives policies and actions and who they serve and what they serve and if those policies serve any other purpose than providing instruction that helps students grow as informed and thoughtful people, then changes be made to insure that such is the actual and primary function of the district, the schools in the district, and every person who works for the district.  I predict that many people now with positions in the district would have to be dismissed for their incapacity to serve the goals I champion.  And I know that many in the public would object to policies directed at helping students learn how to think for themselves and do it well.  That is a dangerous proposition for those who acquire wealth and power through the misinformed judgments of people who are not thoughtful enough to make good choices for themselves.

Truth be told, I listened to a host of speakers today who were neither well enough informed or thoughtful to contribute meaningfully to the discussion.  I have had numerous students in my college courses who were not prepared for this kind of discussion who became teachers against my will because the schools needed teachers and the university wanted higher graduation rates.  You have an opportunity to take the moment you have been given to redirect the project of education in Washoe County toward real achievement, meaningful achievement that is essential to the decent society, one made up of decent people who have the capacity to make sensible and judicious decisions because the path set for them by schools is one of intellectual involvement in the affairs of their world with the ability to make sensible and humane decisions based in good knowledge and critical thought.

By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

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