Heck of a summer reset happening for schools

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 9/9/20

Sooooo….. how’s everybody doing? By the time you’re reading this, we in Jefferson County will have completed our first two days of actual school this year. And whether that’s at the …

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Heck of a summer reset happening for schools


Sooooo….. how’s everybody doing?

By the time you’re reading this, we in Jefferson County will have completed our first two days of actual school this year. And whether that’s at the elementary level, with students every day, or the secondary level, with only half the kids so far… or maybe half the kids each of two days…. We have now gotten a taste of this particular reset.

Kind of like that taste you get of a real meal when you go to a tapas bar. If you’re trying to jam the tapas through a mask.

Or that taste you get of real baseball if you watch the Rockies.

Then again, in an existential sense, maybe a few resets are called for.

Like, for a society which has an obesity issue, maybe a little difficulty gorging on your meal of tiny food would be not such a terrible thing.

A colleague of mine proposed the radical idea that trying to provide education in this way this year might force one of the great, important resets in all the history of the last 20 years of education: making students personally responsible for their own education. Generally, for the mass of students, the last twenty years has been an experiment in making life manageable. We provide rubrics on major assignments, so the students know exactly what they have to do to get a certain grade. We give students the opportunity to correct their tests to get better grades. And we provide numerous interventions before bringing down harsh consequences on students for behavior or performance.

And all of that comes from a laudable place: we’re trying to help students succeed. But, predictably for anybody who studies human behavior, students have learned to game the system to the point where they rarely think. They’re happy to put in time and busy effort, but frequently shrink away from putting in serious brain effort.

And, once we have them trained to perform that way in the schools, we send them out into a world where they never have to find their way — that’s what their phone’s GPS is for.

And then, regardless of the grades they actually earned or the work they did, we give them loans to go to college to get degrees that don’t have careers attached to them so they can complain about how unfair the system is that doesn’t provide them with the lifestyle to which they’d like to be accustomed while it provides for a lavish lifestyle for people who build the phones that tell them how to get to the next place where they can take a selfie of themselves taking it to “the man” and posting it on a website (invented by a guy who has a lavish lifestyle) so that hopefully some tier three celebrity (who also lives a lavish lifestyle) notices them, likes their selfie, reposts their selfie so that they, too, can have a moment of fleeting fame (and maybe earn a lavish lifestyle).

And even those of us who look down our noses at that whole process (along with most of the rest of the world) have gotten completely comfortable — in fact, we absolutely expect to — buying the things we want at ridiculously cheap prices. Why? Because these items are all made in China…. by 13-year-olds in sweat shops.

So, regardless of who wins on November 3rd (or 4thor 8th or whenever we actually find out), it is likely that the entire supply chain is headed for a major reset. Which will force us all to reset our expectations regarding the age of hapless consumerism.

And, ironically, as that all comes to fruition, the students dealing with the whole education reset right now are going to be the ones best poised to manage the new economy.

So, enjoy the little reset of summer that we’re getting this week, and hang on for the ride. The world’s a-changin’.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.


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