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“Superman” Never Left—So For Whom Have We Been Waiting?

According to the political rhetoric of the last few decades, especially from the early 1990s, the American public education system has been in desperate need of reform. The problems cited include low graduation rates accompanied by low literacy and numeracy rates, low achievement rates (test scores), and a reduction in qualified, college-educated professionals in comparison to our international peers. Fingers have been pointed at unqualified and lethargic faculty and teaching staff, corrupt administration tactics, sub-standard curricula, fickle politicians, uncaring parents and communities, etc. However, the real threat to education and learning is and has always been ignorance; and the American public is, and has been, woefully misinformed.

As an educator with extensive experience working within the public education system and its various components and in various capacities, I have come to realize that the most dangerous and critical issue afflicting this system is a lack of knowledge and understanding. This blog—Learners Arise!—in concert with my newly established independent education service company—Rise Above: Continuing Education & Scholarship, L3C—seeks to address this issue directly. My fellow Americans: the educational system has not been “failing” because in order for something to fail it must first have been built and designed to work.

The first and foremost fact, in my opinion, about the American public education system is that it is trying to divide numbers by 0, meaning that IT DOES NOT EXIST. There is absolutely no Constitutional power granting the federal government any jurisdiction or authority over the education of the American people. It has been addressed since America’s conception (to be addressed more later), but heretofore there have been absolutely no changes or updates made. Thus, education, and its funding, is the responsibility of your State and local government officials, especially the boards of education. Having an issue with the quality of your teachers? Taking umbrage with the misappropriation and misuse of educational funds? Well, neither the President nor his cabinet official/figurehead—the Secretary of Education—can assist you. They have no power, only microphones.

An educational system consists primarily of two elements: The Learner and The Learning Environment. It should go without saying that the Learning Environment is the space or place where Learners are, which is everywhere as we are all always learning something, somewhere. Thus, I pose this question to all parents: What are your children learning in your home? To all teachers:  What are your students learning in your classrooms? To all lawmakers: What are children learning in your communities? If you cannot answer these questions, therein lies the problem.

People, our children have been learning despite us. Consequently, people and theorists who mean well but lack understanding of the learning process and educational systems have convinced you that we are in need of something more and waiting for someone or something to provide it, one even referring to this savior as “Superman.” The answer has been more systems—a myriad of charters, privates, etc. These systems rally around the least significant people in a child’s education and fail consistently to empower or incorporate the most important—the parents. Parents are children’s primary and most significant educators. Education professionals serve as co-laborers in the process that parents direct, but we have failed to educate them.

Superman is an interesting metaphor as his story represents the everyday special education student. As a child, his abilities are unknown and untested, making them disabilities; even his parents cannot help him understand who he is and what he is meant to do with himself. This leads to a series of events, heartbreak, and unanswerable questions. However, as he grows and learns about the nature of his disabilities, he learns to control them and, even more importantly, direct them to a purpose for which he decides. Our children are discovering their talents and abilities, and in our efforts to standardize and increase “achievement” they are learning that their superpowers are disabilities. Thus, they are exploring themselves and their natures at a young age from the premise that they are working with deficits when in fact they are realizing what they are and of what they are capable. We are failing to educate, i.e. empower, them as well.

Parents: Your children are not waiting for Superman, they are waiting for YOU and they are waiting for THEMSELVES. And here you all are; you never left. Many of you are tired, many of you may even have just flatly given up (especially after middle school) but the answers lie in one thing: Conversation. Ask questions, speak openly, and refuse to accept the resignation of jaded professionals or the empty rhetoric of ignorant politicians. They do not speak for you. They do not speak for us. They simply speak. And for every one of them, there are hundreds of soldiers in the field willing and ready to empower all, parents and students.

The goal is simple: to learn how to learn. Learning is the superpower with which man has been endowed to infinite degree. Use it or it will use you. It is time for us to lift fingers not point them.

Learners: It is time to talk. It is time to work. It is time to arise.

©2017 Kevin J. Quail, II. All rights reserved

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Kevin J. Quail, II is an experienced, certified Special Educator and Advocate. For over a decade, he has worked as a direct hire and independent contractor in public, private, and charter K-12 as well as college school environments in various capacities, including: Test Prep teacher, IB Librarian/Media Specialist, Tutor, Substitute, ESL teacher, Humanities/College Prep teacher, English, and GED prep teacher. He currently works as an independent research-practitioner and service provider serving in both the Honolulu and Washington, DC metropolitan areas to provide tutoring, homeschool support, test preparation, substitute teaching, special education services, curriculum design, advocacy, professional development and coaching for students, parents, schools, and other independent educators.