"How to Spend $100 Million to Really Save Education" is filled with gems. However, as an independent school educator, I think it misses what has to happen but can't, despite millions of dollars: a plate-tectonic shift — not about the teaching, but the learning. A focus on furniture, standardized testing, buildings, textbooks, unions, and even technology cannot move us forward until we move our mind-sets from teacher to student. This shift is what it might take to move our nation toward a creative and transformational place.
Stephen G. Kennedy
Some of these ideas seem promising, some of them are old, and some are wishful thinking. I am a little amused that there was not one suggestion to visit Finland, Japan, South Korea, and other countries to see what works there that could be adapted to our schools.
Forest City, Iowa
As a parent, I don't think we know enough about what variables impact learning. Is it early intervention and schooling, or is it parental engagement? I would love to see a study articulate the top 10 differentiators of great schools and students and good ones.
Education does not take place in the classroom because teachers who are innovative and passionate risk takers do not last in the present system. I asked my daughter, who survived public education, the following questions: How many teachers did you have who were passionate about their subject matter and teaching, and how many good teachers did you have? The response was the same for each: zero. Why would students participate in a system that ignores and disrespects them? Why would teachers?
It's ironic that Fast Company is promoting Michelle Rhee's vision of education for the 21st century ("Forget $100 Million. Michelle Rhee Wants to Spend a Billion!"), given the magazine's announced commitment to innovation. Rhee is a reactionary, not an innovator. She defines education by test scores and measures the careers of teachers by their students' test results. Her Students First platform ignores the core values of a good business operation, in which all of the actors — employees and customers, students and teachers — are viewed as important players. What Rhee is engaged in is politics. But her political skills have been brought to bear in the service of an agenda that views education as an early-20th-century industrial process with a 19th-century knowledge base.
I remember venture capitalists working on much smaller deals 20 years ago (Tech Edge). Back then, I could get interest at the $500,000 level, but today, they won't go near a deal that low, and that's having a negative impact on startups. Eventually, something — like the super angels — will have to disrupt the existing cycles. I am all for it.
The fatal flaw here, and where the Vestas WindMade label becomes transparently commercial, is the part about it being applicable only to products made using energy generated from new equipment ("Tilting at Windmills"). I can see why Vestas would want this, but it penalizes brands that were ahead of the curve in doing the right thing.
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A version of this article appeared in the April 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.