Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Invitation Letter to Parents

If there is one force today that I believe can break our cycles of status quo hereditary practices in education and bring us to someplace better a key to it lies in our ability to communicate and share ideas in real-time between educators and education stakeholders. The networks of individuals using tools like Twitter, Blogs, Wikis, YouTube and other social video, Skype, and countless other online communication tools that have come to be commonly known as Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) carry with them a method to let good ideas spread and take seed in even the most draconian of learning environments. Teachers who have plugged themselves into these networks and become actively involved in their own learning have felt this power for transformation. This is truly a grass-roots mobilization machine. However, for school systems to change it requires more than just enlightened educators, it requires enlightened students and parents who will support the change.

Time and again we see true reform efforts fail because the new model doesn't look enough like the common conception of school in the public eye. No matter how rooted in sound theory and philosophy the school will fail if reform efforts do not bring parents and community members with us. So, what we end up with are perestroika efforts at reform like we saw today in President Obama's speech on Education Reform. Changes that are not real change. More testing of students or more rigorous testing of students is not real change. A focus on teaching and instruction is not real change. The spread of a back to basics drill and kill model of schooling like Mastery Charter or KIPP is not real change. The spread of a "put the rich privileged (mostly white) Ivy League graduate who was successful in school in front of the classroom for students to emulate" model that is Teach For America is not real change. These are bureaucratic changes that in the end will only further to strengthen the definitions and delineations between groups of the emerging American Caste System complete with high school dropouts at the bottom "untouchable" level. Schools like Mastery, KIPP, and TFA, by the way, don't have to count their dropouts among their students and therefore can claim higher levels of success since by nature they self-select students. We all know there is a better solution, a real change that is possible. We have examples of it in schools like Minnesota New Country School and the Science and Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.

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Educators, perhaps Obama and Duncan are right to beat up on us. This situation may be our own doing. By focusing so much on ourselves and our students we have neglected to invite a very important stakeholder into the fold, parents & community members. So, what follows is what I propose every Teacher Tweeter, EduPlurker, and Edublogger come this school year send home with their students, an invitation letter to parents (altered to include your information) to join in the discussion:

Dear Parent or Guardian,

I am excited to begin a new school year learning with your son or daughter. I say learning with because I have found to be a teacher today requires one to also be a learner both in and outside the classroom. It is undeniable that the world your child is growing up in is in many ways different than the world you or I grew up in. Much of these changes mean necessary changes in school. For one, we did not have the Internet and fingertip access to the wealth of human information when we went to school. Having such a device in my classroom has meant my role there has been altered. It has removed the necessity for me to always have the right answers for the students and has created a greater need for me to help them develop strategies for finding the right answers on their own.

Things in school are different now than they even were when I went to college. Nothing in my teacher training addressed some of these issues we face in education today. Therefore, I have found a community of other people interested in helping each other find their role in this new world through tools like Twitter, blogs, and YouTube. This community consists of not only teachers but also school administrators, education researchers, graduate students, and other parents. In this space I make my learning about education transparent and you are welcome to follow me in my exploration of new technologies and new ways of thinking. I also invite you to join the conversation. The real education reform happens because of what happens in the classroom and for your son or daughter's classroom what happens will be greatly influenced by the shared dialog happening in this digital space.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter, read my blog, or watch my YouTube videos and join the global conversation influencing your child's education. There are a few things you should know first. This digital space is my learning environment and as such community building activities both serious and lighthearted occur. We have fun in this space and we are serious. The fun elements hold us together and maintain our community and the serious elements help us to progress our learning. Both are necessary for learning both online and in the classroom.

I am @anderscj on Twitter and my blog is Please join me in trying to make your child's education great.

Carl Anderson


Laura said...

Carl, I am going to heavily borrow from your letter to parents... thanks for the great idea!

Mrs. Tenkely said...

Sending a letter home to parents that helps them to better understand why the landscape of education must change is a great idea. I hope that teachers around the world will follow suite.

Jack Reylan said...

The Professulas, trial lawyers and union organizers are Obama's core constituencies. Universities, libraries, museums and other public beneficiaries extort their patrons to lobby on their behalf using taxpayer resources. That's what ACORN and PIRG are about. They even encourage students to max out their loans and invest the proceeds so the school can up its total. Obama learned the trick when he worked for Don Kent at tuition-funded Arms Race Alternatives, while they denied admission to Young Americans for Freedom or even the pro-nuclear Social Democrats. Ted Markowitz used the Xerox 9700 to make fliers for the 1982 June 12th nuclear freezers, but persecuted students for smaller infractions. Look how they destroyed a supply side hero like Jeff Bell! Shows how much he valued free speech then and now, and who put him up to it, and what they were really up to, racketeering for federal funds. Sovern incited the 1968 riots so his cabal could get the booty: "UPI June 6, 1992 Sovern took over at Columbia after student protests of 1968 and New York's fiscal problems in the '70s resulted in less financial support for the school, a situation made more dire by recent federal government budget cuts. . . But Columbia will be looking for a new president in a period troubled by criticism for destroying records that were being reviewed for improprieties. Universities in general have been under greater scrutiny for how they charge the government for federally sponsored research." When Obama falls in 2010, we should go through the grant-grubbing Ivy Leagues that produce commie-nutty organizers with a flame thrower! Ivy League universities are not good at getting students jobs, only grants to be commie nutty organizers. If you are liberal, anything you do is inherently ethical for the cause, but if you are a conservative, and believe in GOD, family or business, your very moral fiber, even down to trivial autonomic responses, is subject to persecution as either dangerously criminal or the result of clinical illness. Bush 43 had two Ivy degrees and they treated him as stupid because he was conservative even though he had better grades and entrance scores and took a lot tougher courses than Gore. Professors are the ultimate molestor high priests because they extort and control your transcripts and your grants if you turn them in. Like a cult, they will make your children denounce you and everything you stand for as unworthy. The lowest level university bureaucrats actually suffer the worst affectations and are likey to be the most vicious persecutors of your children. No business ever trusts such left wing graduates who don't believe in capitalism and become crooks because they are taught the only way business makes money is crooked so they seek to avenge their unemployability through their own crookedness. The universities consider real jobs and competition beneath them, so they want their little sissies to live off grants, even in the hard sciences or business. How many of their engineering professors have Professional Engineering certification? Almost none! They love foreign students because they slave up and don't expect professors to actually work for the tuition, like American students do. (Surely You Are Joking Feynman p 215 "If I ask you a question during the lecture, afterwards everybody will be telling me, 'What are you wasting our time for in the class? We're trying to learn something. And you're stopping him by asking a question'." ) No middle class parent should consider sending their kids there, because these schools will destroy your entire family. The only schools that unders

Carl Anderson said...


I think I understand your frustration but I do think your reactionary stance is a bit heavy-handed and only works against you. In many ways this is like Chinese handcuffs, the more each side pulls in their own direction against the efforts of the other the more stuck we become. I am currently reading Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed which seems to explain so much about what is happening in our world right now and why things have become so divided. I worked your comment into my reflection on one of the chapters of Freire's book on this blog post:

I encourage you to read through that post. I am very curious to know what you think.