The words that have recently forced their way into education must be examined. They reflect the needs of the business world but seem horribly out of place in a child’s classroom. The power of these words cannot be overstated which is why they must be challenged and replaced.

The first two words are standardized and common. Try to write an inspiring inscription for a child’s graduation card using these words. How can a standardized or common child be college and career ready when we face a future that is uncertain but will certainly require uncommon approaches to new challenges?

The next three words are modules, high-stakes, and cut scores. A module is for a space ship, not an elementary school classroom. High-stakes are for poker players, not Pokemon players. Cut scores are for golfers on the PGA tour, not children in the NYS school system.

The three most disturbing new words used in education are rigor, data-mining, and death penalty. These are the words that pervade educational, corporate, and political leaders’ perceptions of children’s relationship with education. Rigor is appropriately used when something has died. Data-mining reveals the truth that the real value for corporations is not in students’ achievement, but in their personal information that will be stored for (most) every child. The most despicable is “death penalty.” New York State will not subject criminals to the death penalty but offers it cavalierly as an option for schools attended by the neediest children in the state. The death penalty is not given to child molesters and murderers. Yet, the death penalty is ok for children’s schools with dedicated individuals fighting to make a difference for students battling poverty and the realities of living in a low socio-economic setting.

The current educational dialogue is upside down. Parents are “special interest groups” if they dare stand up and speak out against the groups abusing children with high-stakes testing. Children are treated like lab experiments. Educators are demonized and ignored. Unless this message hits a number of people that can affect the power and money of those controlling the dialogue, we will learn to accept this upside down world as the way it is.

Discussions of school should be centered on words that evoke the parental, humane, and compassionate nature of the people inside schools, not the greedy, corporate, and bureaucratic training of the people outside. Words like honest, inspirational, and transformative need to come from experienced decision makers who know how to support imaginative teachers to create compelling lessons that motivate students.
So, as we engage in journeys to the future of education, we envision a common core of beliefs fit for a king. We love our kids. Our kids trust us and our communities are beginning to learn why we wear green laces. Be bold and don’t be ignored. Lace to the Top and change the conversation with words that belong in your living room, not a war room. The words matter. Love. Kids.

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