To WCSD Superintendent and Board Chair

Response to editorial by Katy Simon Holland (chair, WCSD board of trustees and Kristen McNeill (interim superintendent ), guest columnists, Reno Gazette-Journal “My Turn” column, August 11, 2019.

Reading your editorial in theReno Gazette-Journal caused me to think we are probably looking to another year at least, maybe an administrations’ worth of maybe minor adjustments where a total rethinking leading to total reworking is, at minimum, what is really needed if the District is to become a good an proper one for the cause of better community.  The passage cited below expresses much the same thing as most celebratory missives coming from dysfunctional public institutions.  “We are better than we look; we are going to look even better very soon.”  Very cheerful and positive and without anything that shows that the issues at hand have actually been adequately contemplated.

“The foundation of WCSD has always been — and will always be — to provide a quality public education experience to all of our students, by embracing their race, gender, abilities, language and culture. It is vital that we prepare all of our students, from pre-kindergarten through high school, for the world outside the classroom. We know that the education our students receive will stay with them throughout their lives, and we are so grateful to all of our educators who have taken on this tremendous responsibility — this is a calling. And to all of our staff, thank you. Each of you plays a vital role in the promise of public education — to produce community minded and contributing individuals.”

What keeps you and the District from becoming involved in bold new initiatives that change a problematic educational situation is profound reluctance to admit that there is anything wrong with the District as it presently exists or with a recent history that, understood, helps to make sense of those presently extant problems. There is possibility for making WCSD a great institution for the education of young people, potential to help them grow to their potential as human beings to become highly capable individuals who can participate effectively as informed and thoughtful members of a democratic society.  The changes needed to make this happen have not been honestly addressed, in part because goals that reflect such ends have never been firmly established as the goals of the school system.

The real goals have been to insure that those who employ the workforce have the workers they need, these “community leaders” never getting what they want because the “training methods” they endorse at a particular moment fail to produce workers with the skills they need when they are hired in the moment that follows, the latter quite different always from the former.  They would do better for themselves and the students, as individual human beings, by allowing for a curriculum shaped to grow individual human potential rather than commercially desired job specifications.  Of course, an independent mind is a dangerous force in a society in which exploitation is rampant and the exploited are kept in line by being educated to have others think for them and telling them how to think and what to do.

That last line probably sounds radical and it is because it speaks to a radical truth that few in education want to discuss, whether education should be for social adjustment and job training or whether it should be for helping individuals learn to exploit their own intellectual resources—this likely fomenting pressure for social and economic change–or whether it should be to train human beings to willing do others bidding unquestioningly—the status quo, no matter how wrong or harmful it be, maintained.

If we could agree that the only good answer is the former, then we could get on with getting somewhere in regard to building schools that helped individual human beings grow into truly good and productive people, productive rather than destructive, community oriented in the sense that they demand such things as fairness, equity, and justice and are always concerned about acting in the best interests of what is good and right and humane, even if for acting upon such principles the rewards that come to those who violate them must be forsaken.

I have every reason to believe that if I were to walk into classrooms a month from now, what is going on in them will be much like what I would have seen in the years past, even in the shiny new schools the District is so proud to now have on line.

By lafered

Retired professor of education concerned with thoughtfulness

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