Swickard: The arrogance of educational leadership

Education leaders are like King Arthur
© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D.  Facts are easy. When I was doing Talk Radio a few years ago I always had a computer in front of me. When there was a question, the computer provided information quickly. The talking points were in front of me.
            Educational leaders in public schools say they are teaching thinking but from what I see students spend much of their time on memorization and how to take tests. Why are we spending so much time and testing effort essentially teaching test preparation?
            Years from now education pundits will wail, "How could all of those supposedly educated educational leaders in 2015 be so stupid?" They were stupid because they were overcome with their arrogance and power.
            Example: Picture a superintendent of a large school district explaining being in charge. The person says, "The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your superintendent."
            Well, that may have come from a Monty Python movie, but it is a fine example of the arrogance of leaders. There is no arguing with the leaders. I know because I have tried, but they have Excalibur, etc.
            A college department that certifies superintendents and principals was the department where I got my Ph.D. so I am quite familiar with what these educational leaders are taught. For a while after my 1998 graduation I was an adjunct faculty in that department. Some current leaders and teachers were in my classes.
            Recently I was exasperated with a principal who I had in class years ago. The end of the conversation was, "You are not doing any of the things we taught you to do as an educational leader nor are you using research to guide you." This person answered, "But I am legally in charge so I can do what I want."
            There are two main contentions of the current public education management: First, that increased management will always improve educational outcomes and, the change agent for learning is entirely teachers. Both are wrong but we, as a society, have put our money and power in the hands of administrators.
            We have an administrator-centric system where everything is about administrators. Every administrator hired comes up with more administrative requirements to where teachers I am in contact with say they no longer teach, they just work making data sheets for administrators so the administrators can hire more administrators to make more teacher requests.
            But are we improving education? More importantly, will the improvement be useful when these students are adults. Public Education is not supposed to be an end in itself for school children; it is the living of life as an adult that ultimately matters.
            The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2012 had a report that indicated the Federal Program, Head Start, had many immediate benefits for students but those benefits did not appear to last into adulthood. The program has gone for five decades so there is a lasting problem. Childhood leads to adulthood and that is what we should value. Ultimately what we do for children needs to improve their lives as adults.
            The mania is teaching the test so administrators can game the test and then show on accountability reports that schools are doing well. But the report of schools doing well will not help students when they become adults. In fact, this disconnects students from schools.
            As a society we need lifelong learners. What students need to become a lifelong learner is curiosity and support for their own individual curiosity of all things. However, the schools don't seem to want curiosity in their classrooms, rather, they want compliant little robots who do what they are told.
            Each year we need to bolster the curiosity of students, give them literate and numerate tools to satisfy their curiosity. They will become lifelong learners. Almost all of the real education in a person's lifetime is self learning.
            Teachers are just there to help students learn to teach themselves. We need to think of the learners and not the educational leaders who have a cottage industry.