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Dr. Josh Starr: Public education needs bold, focused leadership

Public education is under constant threat of being reformed by meddlesome elected officials in state and federal government, but locally it’s the district superintendent who is ultimately responsible for ensuring students are learning what they need to learn.

But who wants that job?

Equal parts politician, media personality, chief executive, and educational leader; a superintendency sounds like a risky position to take. The pay may be good, but who wants to spend days and nights engaging with old bureaucracies and political fiefdoms?

Dr. Josh Starr, president of PDK International and former superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools joined the Education Is Power broadcast to discuss what it takes to be a bold leader for public schools. He says leaders need to be unmovable in their dedication to pursuing equity, they must be collaborative with teachers, and they need to seek support from the silent majority of reasonable people in their cities who support common sense reforms.

See our discussion here:

If you prefer to listen to the interview you can find it here:

*In this discussion we reference the PDK poll of public attitudes about education which you can find here; Don McAdams’ book “What School Boards Can Do” which you can find here; the emerging story out of Montgomery County Public Schools regarding integration which you can find here.

Pursuing the power of self-sovereignty and personalized learning to create secure citizens and abundant communities. #TheOppositeOfSchool #AllPowerToThePupil

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I’m sorry, but crap like this deserves zero tolerance

A fight at the ‘happiest place on Earth’ says a lot about our cultural failure. This is the best justification for ‘no excuses’ I’ve seen.

We are doomed if we can’t talk openly about culture, especially when it goes this bad.

The video below is a next-level case study in family failure. In it a fight goes from shouting to an all-out brawl where many norms – even those associated with fighting – are trashed.

Men hit women.

Young women hit the elderly.

Babies and children remain in harm’s way.

Dysfunction spills out before the most family-friendly place on Earth – Disneyland. And, though bystanders make mostly soft attempts to intervene while many stand idle, probably frozen by shock.

There could be many arguments to excuse this behavior. Income inequality fosters low levels of education, corrupts home environments, and produces dysregulation issues for generation after generation.

The world is unfair and the natural outcome for that is social strife.

That argument is too fancy for me. Even after all of the structural injustice in the world is accounted for there is still such thing as doing wrong, even for people who have been historically wronged.

I can’t say that my upbringing protected me fully from scenes like this. I saw my share and then some. But, for me, as an adult and a father now, participation in the culture that produces behavior that gross is a personal choice – one I refuse.

Just last month I stood with my wife and kids in the exact spot where this fight took place. It’s in Toon Town, the section of Disneyland for the smallest kids. You can visit Minnie and Mickey Mouse in their respective homes (they live separately), and get pictures with the stars themselves. There’s a baby roller coaster that allows the younger ones a less-than-scary thrill ride. Innocence and safety abounds. There’s no sense that violence is even possible there.

Then comes these fools.

I can’t imagine what my kids would think witnessing this hot garbage. They wouldn’t have a point of reference for it, and frankly, I don’t want them to.

It’s not something I think any of us should understand or to tolerate.

If we, as a community, fail to set and keep standards from the bottom-up, we pay the price of scenes like this.

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A good reminder that not all teachers are created equal and trust should not be blind

Our faith in public schools can be dangerous for parents and students. I can’t say it enough: parents, be vigilant!

What you want to know as a parent is that your child is safe and loved whenever you put them in other people’s care. We don’t even want to think about them experiencing a moment of feeling alienated, confused, or hurt without us, as was the case with this exceptional 5th-grade child, Jamar, in Washington State.

His teacher refused to let him use the restroom, and when he tried to push past her she locked him out of the school and even shut the window blinds in his face.

He was caught on camera wandering aimlessly until another student eventually let him back into the school building.

See the video:

SIDE NOTE: Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Phd

In my opinion, based on years of experience dealing with the public schools, special education teachers are not specially trained to cope with and help these kids. There are school systems around the country that utilize teaching methods based on psychological research that are successful in handling special needs children. One of them is the Lehigh School system in Pennsylvania. However, with few exceptions, special education is a neglected aspect of education in most places.

As a result, many of these children drop out of school by the time they reach the Middle and High School years. By that time, they have soaked up the self image that they are “bad and hopeless,” join the ranks of other damaged kids and become involved in alcohol, drug abuse and anti social activities. In the end, society pays the cost of neglect because so many of these youngsters become criminals and enter the prison system. If public funds were used to properly train special education teachers to provide programs that help these child overcome their problems the cost would be minimal because we would not need so many prisons.

Additional Reading:

#GovernmentSchooling101 h/t to @btsigall 

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A profoundly beautiful short film about inclusion and children

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