By Larry Lee
In the 1985 movie classic, Back to the Future, Marty McFly was inadvertently sent back in time by Doc Brown’s time machine.
It now appears that State Senator Scott Beason has his own time machine and is hoping to send Alabama public school students and teachers back to 1999. Beason has introduced SB 380 which calls for the repeal of the new Alabama College & Career Ready standards and replace them with standards adopted in 1999.
It’s all about some of the hysteria whipped up by those who want us to believe that the new standards are somehow part of a master national plan to subvert young minds. And it once again shows that some elected officials are far more interested in politics than they are in education.
As best I can determine from visiting schools, talking to teachers and principals and school superintendents; the standards are largely hailed as what our kids need to compete in today’s world.
A Baldwin County teacher told me, “In the past, we’ve been teaching a mile wide and an inch deep. At the end of the year you knew you really had not given your students mastery of certain concepts, nor helped them to think deeply. But now we’ve narrowed the focus and are going much more in depth. This is allowing our kids to really understand what we’re trying to teach them.”
To get to this point school systems have invested tremendous amounts of time and effort into professional development for teachers. They’ve invested substantial revenue into getting ready to implement the new standards.
But what do educators know when it comes to education? Why should we be concerned about wasting money or telling teachers to forget about the two years of work they’ve just spent learning how to be better instructors when a few votes are involved?
So let’s roll back the clock 15 years for our school kids. Let’s go back to 1999 when gas was $1.22 a gallon. A few weeks ago the Talladega County school system was nationally featured in a meeting at the Library of Congress where they spoke about their computer-based teaching programs.
Let’s tell Talladega County to toss out the classroom computers in use now since they were not around in 1999. Let’s pass a law outlawing all text messages since “texting” was virtually unknown in 1999. And don’t forget to tell all the school systems that have invested in various one-on-one computer projects to take those devices to the dumpster.
I’m sure Governor Bentley is looking forward to holding a press conference to announce that we are looking backwards in Alabama, rather than forward. I’m sure Airbus will be delighted to get this news.
No doubt Greg Canfield with the Commerce Department will soon send letters to companies considering locating in Alabama explaining that if they want a work force prepared to compete in today’s global economy they should look elsewhere.
Who knows we may even want to send a letter to Mercedes telling them that from now on they should only use their 1999 training methods to prepare employees to work on cars being built in 2014.
Remington has just announced that they will put a major manufacturing facility in Huntsville. How excited will the managers who move to Alabama be when they learn their kids will go to schools that use outdated standards?
Maybe we can redo the welcome to Alabama billboards to say, “Welcome to Alabama where the future is 15 years ago.”
The teachers I know have every confidence in the ability of our students to compete with other students across this country. All they want is the chance to give them this opportunity. That’s why so many of them have invested so much time and effort into preparation for the last few years.
They don’t want to go back to 1999. They know that if we do we are putting our kids at a huge disadvantage. But hey, why should it matter that students in Georgia or North Carolina or Ohio are being better prepared as long as you can round up a few more votes?
What difference does it make that we’re sending the wrong message to the world when it might help me get re-elected?
Larry Lee led the study, Lessons Learned from Rural Schools, and is a long-time advocate for public education. [email protected] read his blog: www.larryeducation.com