Traditionalists and Expansionists

I read an interesting article this morning on two different approaches to conserve our wilderness that are being taken in response to climate change. The new conservationists are being proactive by moving species to new ranges and using nonnative species as stand-ins for those that have become extinct. The old conservationists who want to protect, preserve and not interfere, are annoyed at this approach. After reading the article I couldn’t help but be reminded of the similar tension that exists in K-12 education. On the one side are what might be called the expansionists who want to relax the rules to allow such changes as private religious schools receiving public money. On the other side are the traditionalists who view such changes as the beginnings of the dissolution of public education. While I am firmly in the camp of the traditionalists, I view it as a mistake to miss the opportunity to redefine what it means to be in this camp. I strongly believe that attempts to simply throw up a fence and preserve what was in school, is a mistake that will ultimately serve as fodder for the expansionists.

Here at KPBSD we are experiencing some of this tension as we strive to find a balance between the digital world of instruction and the personal side of a teacher in front of students. There is little question that the independent learning that is a part of the digital side is a challenge for many students and that it is a mistake to simply assume that the digital content will be easily learned by all students. I am convinced that personal guidance with digital learning is paramount to our students’ success. We should not however because of this need, dismiss digital learning as a secondary option for students. It is clear that the traditional limitations of attendance and enrollment are loosening with students pursuing “best fit” options. Is it necessary to have 50 minutes of face-to-face class each day? Or can there be a blend where students are required to be with a teacher for three classes per week? With the premise that public education is the foundation of our democracy, as public educators we must do all that we can to adapt to the changing learning styles of our students. An insistence that a student must be in class in front of a teacher all day to get through high school is persevering the old and is the type of thing that those on the expansionist side will pounce on to illustrate the limitations of public education. Our district is full of innovation, let’s continue to recognize the needed changes that will help quell the expansionist’s diatribe on our schools.

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