When it comes to education in Mississippi everyone has an opinion, and that is okay. When it comes to education in Mississippi, almost everyone has ideas for solutions to education problems, and that is also okay. However, the misconceptions that many of these opinions and solutions are based on are not okay. Mistaken beliefs or false impressions about education make it difficult to find common ground on which to work for the good of all children. Unfortunately, that does not keep the masses from weighing in with often misguided resolve to right the wrongs of education.
When it comes to education in Mississippi, EVERYBODY is an EXPERT.
In Mississippi, everyone who has ever attended grade school, high school, or college is a self-proclaimed expert on education. Never mind the fact that some of them may have dropped out of school after the eighth grade, they are still experts. In fact, with each passing year their expertise often doubles or even triples. Like football, education is a favorite domain of the armchair quarterback.
When it comes to education in Mississippi, there is a “SILVER BULLET” out there somewhere that can cure all the state’s education ills.
There are 170+ “SILVER BULLETS” in the Mississippi senate and house, 1 “SILVER BULLET” in the office of lieutenant governor, and 1 “SILVER BULLET” in the governor’s office. They know what is wrong with education and how to fix it as long as it does not involve adequate funding or a little common sense.
When it comes to education in Mississippi, lack of school success is exclusively the result of inferior teaching.
Poor teaching may be a factor, but research supports that school success is a direct reflection of the socioeconomics of the community in which the school exists. The bottom line is that children living in poverty do not fare as well academically as more affluent children. When you factor in the fact that Mississippi leads the nation with 35% of its children living in poverty, there is little doubt as to why Mississippi ranks last educationally in the nation.
Educational change is ongoing in Mississippi.
Change in Mississippi education is an illusion. For example, recently a Mississippi parent removed her child from the local public school to homeschool the child after becoming concerned about her daughter’s homework. She blamed common core standards. She explained that her child’s homework was focused on writing out thoughts and not worksheets like homework from past years. She could not understand why we need to change the way things have always been done. Maybe this mother is right – Mississippi children rank number 51 in the nation (Behind Washington DC!), so maybe change is not necessary (Now that is what I call a misconception!).
Mississippi parents want their children to be challenged in school.
Many Mississippi parents believe if schoolwork is too difficult for the parents, it is too difficult for their children.
Education is a priority in Mississippi.
Education in Mississippi is not a priority when it conflicts with other priorities
Class size in Mississippi schools does not matter.
In education we avoid putting more than twelve adults on a single committee because with more than twelve it is hard to maintain focus, and committees tend to be less productive. However, we do not hesitate to place twenty-five plus children in a classroom with a single teacher and demand that the teacher keeps them totally focused and on task at all times, maintains perfect classroom behavior, and ensures that all students demonstrate proficient to advanced academic progress on state tests. The bottom line is that class size does matter! Ask a struggling child in a classroom of thirty-five.
Large consolidated schools are better.
Any school that is so large that it allows children to become anonymous is too large. An anonymous child is much more likely to strike out at a society that is blind to his or her existence. The argument has always been that larger schools make more sense economically, and that the larger school can provide more program opportunities for students. Those may be valid points, but the truth is that the larger the school the greater the chances that a child can become a number without a face.
Anybody can be a teacher in Mississippi.
It takes a special person to be a teacher. However, anybody can be a state legislator in Mississippi. Mississippi legislators are like a man who gets lost on a trip – he will drive around in circles for eternity before he will admit he needs help and asks for directions. Why? Refer to MISCONCEPTION #1.
The governor and state legislators claim the Mississippi Department of Education and state educators in general are not innovative enough to move Mississippi education forward..
Political posturing disguised as innovation is a big problem in Jackson. However, a bigger problem is the governor and the state legislators’ mindset that they must save Mississippi children from the state’s educators. Their lack of trust, respect, and support of educators has created a dysfunctional relationship between the state legislature and educators that has effectively crippled education in the state. Their “us against them” attitude has established an adversarial atmosphere that will take years to reconcile if it can be reconciled. The sad part is that the losers are the children.
The next time you read or hear a debate for or against education, listen closely and refer to this list. You may be surprised to see several of these misconceptions raise their ugly heads, or sad to say, you may also find yourself adding new ones to an ever growing list.
©Jack Linton, 2014