When the great Swedish naturalist, Carolus Linnaeus, was busily classifying and organizing all the known species in the plant and animal kingdoms, his task became controversial for any number of reasons. One was the issue of humankind’s inclusion in the classification system in the first place. Another was the name that would be given to the human species.
Having now reached that point in my life when I am just a bit chagrined, rather than proud, of how long I have been a school superintendent (20 years but who’s counting?), and simultaneously facing the eclipse of an old year and the dawn of a new one, I find myself in a bit of a reflective state.RELATED CONTENT
Back in the mid-1980s when I first sat behind a principal’s desk, I assumed the task of teacher evaluation. I found it fascinating to watch some really exceptional instructors working with students in every subject area we taught.
The only subject, in fact, that I really didn’t enjoy evaluating a teacher in was, in that district, Spanish. The instructor we had was a very good one and she really challenged her students, teaching through immersion, a constant conversational stream of Spanish, Spanish and more Spanish. And there I sat observing with my high school foreign language coursework in German.
An elementary student trudges slowly to his school, walking alongside his bicycle, finally stopping to rest for a moment on the sidewalk in front of the flagpole. The building custodian, unfolding the American flag in preparation for its quick ascent to the top, notices his mild distress and steps over to talk to him. Before he even arrives, the problem is clear. His bike chain has fallen off.
In his landmark 1962 book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” Thomas Kuhn wrote of a phenomenon that occurs in fields of study, especially sciences, when the whole apple cart gets upset. He called it a paradigm shift and described it as a time when one or more major assumptions in a field are overturned for new ones that better explain reality or produce better results. Thus, astronomy underwent a paradigm shift when the heliocentric (sun-centered) theory replaced the older geocentric (earth-centered) one. Suddenly, the earth was no longer the center of the universe, at least in terms of who revolves around whom, and all sorts of things had to change. The change was necessary, however, in order for the science to advance. Similar paradigm shifts occur or have occurred in all mature sciences and, though this goes beyond Kuhn, they also occur in most fields of study.
The current gubernatorial race in South Dakota seems to be shaping up into a real yawner.
With Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard 30-plus points ahead of his opponent, Scott Heidepriem, in the polls, the campaign becomes pretty predictable. The candidate far behind throws out increasingly acerbic criticisms of the frontrunner while the frontrunner ignores his antagonist and says as little as possible, since it is politically unwise to shake things up when you are coasting to what appears to be a stunning victory.
On July 1, 2009, South Dakota Codified Law 13-27-1 went into effect, mandating compulsory attendance for students up to age 18. The old law had required attendance until age 16 but, in the age of No Child Left Behind which sets goals for schools to graduate at least 80 percent of its students, allowing young people to legally drop out before they graduate — which typically occurs at age 18 — seemed counter-productive and even anachronistic.
Last spring when Congress began seriously discussing the $26 billion Medicaid/school assistance or bailout bill, every superintendent in the country began receiving excited e-mails from national educational lobbyists asking us to contact our senators and representatives. I actually read the first one and then deleted it. The rest never saw the digital light of day before suffering the same, quicker, fate.RELATED CONTENT
Whiner Alert: In the two paragraphs immediately following, the author of this column engages in completely unjustified puling about a childhood event most mature adults would have long forgotten or at least gotten over, especially considering the fact that his childhood was idyllic, with loving parents, supportive brothers and excellent friends.
In 2000, when Chris Paustian first laid out the vision for a new campus for Mitchell Technical Institute just south of the interstate, the elegance and strategic purpose of the plan hit you like a revelation. The need for and advantages of the idea were just so clear once made manifest.
What was stunningly less clear was just how one would go about building a whole new campus for MTI. Campuses cost money and lots of it and neither a huge bank account nor a statewide commitment were anywhere in sight. It is to then Director Paustian’s credit, in fact, that he was able to lay out such a vision with no concrete way to turn a potential campus into a real one.
Much of what one plans for never comes to pass. This is not because planning is useless but rather that it is by its very nature contingent and the number of contingencies in any hypothetical scenario forces you to plan for dozens of possibilities.RELATED CONTENT
People like McGovern provide something special for the students of Mitchell High School and all the schools that feed into it. They provide absolute, verifiable, undeniable proof that incredibly high goals are achievable by someone from our relatively small community.RELATED CONTENT
Twenty-five years ago, K-12 education was a cultural institution with almost no outside competition and the 8 mm movie projector its most compelling technology.RELATED CONTENT
Consider source when evaluating information about improving education, economic growth.RELATED CONTENT
NCLB reports communicate virtually every possible bit of data on student achievement that anyone could ever want while simultaneously providing a clear message — what is found on these pages is not only uninteresting, it is also incomprehensible. And, so, the only person who ever reads them is the unfortunate school principal who had to create them. They are, in other words, a mystery.RELATED CONTENT
Requirements for parents to home school their children are very minimal, the ability of school boards to revoke permission to home school are very limited, and the quality of home school instruction and resulting student achievement are essentially unknown and even unknowable.RELATED CONTENT
The Common Core standards are, you may remember, a set of content standards for English/language and Mathematics that have been adopted now by 46 of the 50 states. This is a major shift in educational policy.RELATED CONTENT
At least two trends will radically reshape and improve education in the relatively near future.RELATED CONTENT
I have genuinely been trying to turn over a new leaf on one of my attitudes of late. Whenever I see something negative, I always try to find something good about it. That attitude is just fine. But, on the flip side, whenever something positive happens, I have this nasty tendency to wonder just what the cloud is that this silver lining is delineating. Do that enough and you start to become something of a pessimist.RELATED CONTENT