A student in Meros Academy’s Summer Program learns math by designing then constructing a skateboard ramp.

Change the Conversation on Education

Let’s stop talking about what doesn’t matter and focus on what does.

The raging debates over Common Core standards, the privatization of education, and the new AP History courses designed by College Board continue to grow in volume. The problem, in my view, is that these debates do nothing to address existing problems faced by students, teachers, and administrators.

From both sides, loud rants and grave warnings are being pronounced all while ignoring what should be going on each day inside classrooms. My seventh grader is not aware if he is learning math, science, and literacy standards aligned to Common Core or the Florida Standards. He just knows that he is learning how to solve for x, explain the food chain, and what Ray Bradbury was trying to convey in Fahrenheit 451.

The arguments for and against these popular issues are filled with hyperbole and based upon pathos and ethos but pay little mind to logos. If you have never sat through a lesson on rhetoric or missed the opportunity to have me as your AP Language teacher, you may not remember that pathos is an appeal to emotion and ethos is an appeal that generalizes the tenets of a community, nation, ideology, or is based solely on the credibility of the speaker. Logos is based solely on the merits of logic.

The teachers and principals with whom I work closely aren’t worried about the charter or private schools popping up down the street or across town, they’re concerned with whether or not their students are mastering new concepts and finding fresh avenues for creative application.

Isn’t that what the focus should be on? Making sure students are being introduced to concepts they can connect with and then actually apply? I do not want a mechanic that has read through my car’s Chilton’s Manual and passed some tests on it. I want a mechanic that has actually applied the material by fixing cars.

Similarly, it was never my goal to have a student pass the AP test because they could correctly identify the rhetorical devices I used in the previous paragraph. I want them to be able to use correct rhetorical devices to affect positive change in their community. That is what relevant education looks like: students taking the new information they are learning and putting it into action to address real issues. Jean Piaget, the psychologist who is best known for his theory of cognitive development, said, “The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.”

That is what I want my seventh grader to be able to do; new things that have not been done. That is what schools should be focused on. And whether that school is public or private matters far less than whether that school is fostering a community of students who see that the purpose of education isn’t to pass tests or get into a better college or even to gain employment, it is to begin a lifelong journey of discovery and creativity.