Disruption has become a popular buzzword in regard to schooling. Education reformers like to say disruption is a good thing—like shaking up a kaleidoscope to get a pretty picture. Never mind that those beautiful little pebbles in the kaleidoscope are real children. Nor is it with certainty that once you shake things up the picture will be pretty. For all we know the kaleidoscope might break, especially if you shake it too hard.
No. For most of us, disruption is more like putting a child on a Tilt-a-Whirl after a big meal.
But politicians and policymakers love the word disruption. Just the other day Jeb! Bush said on CNN I’m a proven leader. I disrupted the old order in Tallahassee. I relied on people like Marco Rubio and many others to follow my leadership and we moved the needle.
Ask Floridians how they like those education disruptions since Mr. Bush was in office. Here is a website if you would like to show how you dislike the education disruptions in Florida. Or if you want to opt your child out of the test there Here is a website for you!
Change can be good for schools, and most teachers I know do not embrace the status quo if they think change will help children—but, disruption? Shouldn’t change involve words like “gradual,” “thoughtful,” and “transitional?” Isn’t the best change that which gives people time to assimilate it? And shouldn’t we be as certain as we can that the change is good change?
Disruption seems kin to “interruption” or worse “chaos!” Don’t some children and teens have enough of this in their lives? Shouldn’t public schools support children and families instead of alienating them?
How many disruptions do children face in their schools today? Does anyone ever stop to think how disruption hurts students? For those who know and understand kids, schools should be comfortable and stable.
But look around. School disruptions are everywhere.
- Common Core
- High-stakes testing
- Teacher firings
- Arbitrary school closings
- Funding cuts
- Pushing young children
- Putting children online for schooling
- Overly driving high schoolers
- Dropping special education services
- Ignoring mental health
- Denying recess
- Severe school budget cuts
- Removing the arts from the curriculum
- Retention based on one test
Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, started the disruption talk in regard to schools. He co-wrote a book called Disruptive Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.
Disruption in this book seems to mean online instruction and individualizing what a student studies. The idea is that this will disrupt current schooling and it will be innovative.
The book doesn’t seem to be about smaller class sizes, individualizing that way, or elevating the role of teachers and parents. It’s about plopping a kid online for school. Plug everyone into a computer program, sit students down in their individual carrels and let them have at it.
If students can be online learning all day, we won’t need brick-and-mortar schools or teachers. Instead of teachers, we might need guides to help students, especially the little ones, find their place on the tech device. Or, better yet, let parents do this at home.
Getting rid of public schools is a huge disruption!
Christensen’s ideas are very full of business speak. Here is the first paragraph in an article concerning Christensen’s disruption:
Disruptive innovation, a term of art coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.
Here is the last paragraph:
Because these lower tiers of the market offer lower gross margins, they are unattractive to other firms moving upward in the market, creating space at the bottom of the market for new disruptive competitors to emerge.
So, all these disruptions in public schools are flowing toward the greater disruption of getting rid of public schooling altogether.
Think about Chicago. There, parents and teachers are trying to make sense about disruption to special education programs.
Troy LaRaviere’s blog post “Like Thieves in the Night: Deceptive CPS Student Service Cuts Spark Principal Uprising” described well the disruptive process to special education in Chicago. Disruption isn’t about innovation there, but about unbridled budget cuts meant to destroy programs. They are shutting down special education services.
How many teachers and paraprofessionals working with students will be without jobs and how many children with disabilities will now have their education disrupted? What good comes of such actions? Does anyone ask the children what they think about losing their teachers or a trusted aide?
How many public schools have been shuttered, even though parents begged and pleaded at school board meetings to keep those schools open?
If you are a parent, disruptions at school mean disruptions at home too. Look at the complaints with Common Core—a huge disruption to how schools instruct with no validation.
Many teachers and parents recognize that these disruptions, big and small, are not just ineffective and hurtful to children and families, but they will weaken America’s future. The picture will not be pretty.
New Material added to my Website:
Troy LaRaviere’s Blog post about the loss of special education services in Chicago Public Schools was informative, but there are many other great posts about CPS and reform too! I liked how he spoke in this particular post “Like Thieves in the Night: Deceptive CPS Student Service Cuts Spark Principal Uprising” about the loss of real jobs and how such loss would affect students with special needs. Describing how principals were treated in this process was also revealing. Troy is a principal, and how he manages to find the time to pen anything is amazing. If you put his name in Google you will find plenty more activism for children involving CPS.