ADS & ODS 1995

Schooling Dilemma (Spring 1995)

Schooling Dilemma

by Ferdenan Damo

For those in education, whether in K-12 or post-secondary, this is the time to enjoy the holiday season. But appreciating the holidays does not exempt educators from neglecting their duties to students, particularly in the area of educational reform. As 1995 approaches, educators must engage in personal contemplation and action to affect changes in the present public educational system. Equally important is for parents and citizens to learn more about schooling and be active participants in this institution. We know the story well: low SAT scores, the drastic need for teachers in the public schools, school overcrowding, ethnic minority under representation at UH-Manoa, and the deterioration of the UH Hamilton Library. The public has not been particularly quiet on the subject either. The local news often conducts telephone surveys to solicit people's reaction towards educational issues; the dailies now and again print "education first" commentaries; and radio talk show hosts love to cater to callers who expound on education.

Although public outcry is justified, everyone expects change to come without participation. Reform cannot happen without involvement from the public. Learning about current instructional pedagogy and actual participation in school matters help define reform. With the advent of School Community Based Management (SCBM), the fate of schooling will eventually rest in the hands of the public. Remember, deeds speak louder than words. Citizens can no longer revert to the "blame game" and not get involved. If a particular schooling institution fails to meet "standards," and all the public does is to condemn schooling, they must assume part of the blame.

The public may feel as though little is being done in the area of reform but-believe it or not-institutions are addressing the problem. The Department of Education is currently undergoing changes through curriculum restructuring and SCBM. The University of Hawai'i is slowly implementing a master plan which will restructure education in the community colleges and at UH-Manoa. Finally, from the deeds of Cayetano early into his administration, it looks as though money will be redirected from State building showers to neglected educational structures.

Despite master plans there will be no reform unless educators implement change. Documents and rhetoric will not accomplish much when educators have no faith in reform attempts. Neither will there be change if educators react to public outcry by strictly enforcing outdated teaching philosophies. It is quite obvious that educators must develop and adopt new pedagogy. Regrettably, reform from the top down will not work unless individual educators believe in change.

Change is difficult, especially for people who have been caught up in their ways for decades. Yes, I'm just as guilty as everyone else when it comes to new ways of thinking, justifying my current philosophy as one that is "tried, true, and tested." Fortunately, I've come to realize that traditional attitudes alone may not be the most effective.

Change is difficult, there are many individuals in education who are dreadfully afraid of reform. Imagine if western medicine never evolved, doctors would still be using leeches to bleed the sick. Enthusiast may see the Ford Model T as a classic, but I'm sure that many of us would rather be driving in air conditioned comfort during rush hour traffic. Like medicine and automobiles, education has to evolve to meet the needs of today's educational institutions.

There are those out there who will not contemplate change. Well, if teachers and professors feel that the traditional perennials ways are the best, why do they complain so much about students not learning anything from their lectures? If traditional teaching techniques are the best, why are Hawaii's high school students scoring low on the questionable SAT? If traditional attitudes about education are sufficient, why is there vast under representation of specific ethnic groups in higher education?

There are many out there who are actually concerned and participate in reform, but if everyone resolves to effort into schooling, imagine how dynamic educational institutions can be. Just think about that. Think really hard.

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