Hello to all of you that are concerned about public education. Whatever your feelings and beliefs are about public schooling in America, it is irrefutable to say that the system is in need of a lot of work. Shrinking purchasing power, rising staff costs, crumbling buildings, high dropout rates, and half of new teachers leave the profession within three years. If public schooling is to survive, it needs to reinvent itself.
I had the opportunity to examine the public education model from the inside (student, substitute teacher, teacher, coach, union bargaining team member, athletic director, assistant principal, principal), and then from the outside with an unusual lense (as an Army officer with the Oregon National Guard deployed into Iraq in 2003-2004). I have put my experiences, and musings, from time on the inside and the outside of public schooling into practice over the past 5 years as an alternative school founder and director, followed by my work as the director of grants and special programs for my rural Oregon school district.
Fast forward to 6 years ago (2004) and I was spending my days and nights at Logistical Service Area Anaconda – Balad, Iraq. In between mortar and rocket attacks, and days of sheer boredom, there was an abundance of time to reflect upon public schooling, its mission, and its current state. The seeds for how to make changes in how we educate kids was planted there in the desert for me. The institution of public education has withstood attempts on many fronts through many years to change it from the outside. I realized that if it continued to defend itself successfully against change from the outside as it had done for decades, it would be sealing its fate to be dismantled as it did so.
LSA Anaconda Guard Tower, 2004 (from the movie “Inside Iraq: The Untold Story”)
The intersection of the parallels between the military and the public school system hit me squarely between my ears nearly ten years ago, as I was fortunate enough to take a class on the application of armored forces in a combined arms environment (meaning tanks mixed in with infantry, air power, artillery, etc). The instructor, a Major, was using all of the effective public school teaching methods, and the class was enthralled. After the class, I just had to ask him if he had ever taught in a public school. “20 years in South Central (L.A.), Language Arts – High School”, was his response.
A strategic approach is needed to re-make our schools. It must start on the inside of the walls of the ivory tower, but must have help from outside the walls if it is to take. If an Army Major can use the tools of great teaching to further the training of Armor platoon and company level leaders, why cannot public schools utilize the Principles of War to become more relevant and compelling? I hope to be able to share with you a passion and a method for saving public schools, while enriching the lives of students, staff, and stakeholders along the way.