Editor's Note (The View From Here)

The Pendulum Swings

For as long as I have been involved in education, I have heard people say there is a need for reform. In my opinion, it is not about reform, it is about transformation and the perpetual swing of a pendulum. Here are a couple of examples.

Sustainability: In 1970, we celebrated the first Earth Day. Then-President Nixon signed an executive order creating the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with the purpose of protecting human health and the environment. Twenty years later, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was founded to promote sustainability in building design, construction and operation, and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system was developed.

Fast forward to today — states and individuals are in the news questioning the “real” costs:benefit analysis of going green.

Science and Technology: In 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, putting our national security and pride on the line. Shortly after Sputnik’s launch, the country’s lawmakers began calling for a greater emphasis on science and math. In 1958, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act, infusing more than a $1 billion into this “new” science curriculum. As important as this was at the time, the buzz soon died down and other issues moved to the forefront.

Fast forward to the 2000’s — global rankings, the economy and workforce development were center stage. The emphasis was renewed and what we now call S.T.E.M. was created. Today, S.T.E.M. has morphed into S.T.E.A.M. because of the realization that the arts enhance creativity and innovation. Unfortunately, while we believe that students need the ability to think critically, problem-solve and collaborate to succeed, the focus on S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. once again appears to be driven by outside factors — jobs and the idea that the U.S. has fallen “behind” — factors that are likely to change and once again diminish the importance of S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. education.

A Perfect World: There is no doubt that things will continue to change and the pendulum will continue to swing. In my version of a perfect world, transformation would include social norms that focused on civility, personal responsibility, productivity and a return to the work ethic that built this great country. When coupled with a good education, no matter the current focus, we would have the potential to be unstoppable!

This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of School Planning & Management.

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