I have already discussed how –as a parent of two in BHSD – I am watching the political unfolding of Governor Snyder’s Oxford Foundation with great fear and trepidation.
I cannot yet imagine how any version of what The Oxford Foundation will produce can help us. As a top rated District, both financially and academically, with a new high school renovation project underway by Fielding-Nair International, we are the proverbial baby in the bathwater here as the Governor tries to help problematic districts by blurring the boundaries (education “Any Place, Any Time, Any Way”) between those districts and districts like our own performing at a high level.
Other state districts might improve or at least get more funds or more opportunities per suggestions currently on the table. BHSD won’t. We are already doing what should be done – and then some. One can usefully turn to the longstanding political wisdom of L. Brooks Patterson here in defending Oakland County: the state doesn’t offer us much, it takes what we have. Or, if you don’t like Mr. Patterson right now, let me paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel: any way you look at The Oxford Foundation we lose.
Let me try to focus on the positive, however, and explain how – in at least one curricular sense – BHSD is, in fact, the baby in Governor Snyder’s bathwater. And it is a baby that is getting bigger. In hiring Fielding-Nair and renovating the Andover site for the new high school we are already doing in part what Governor Snyder wants in terms of curriculum. And we are doing it, quite obviously, without sacrificing local control.
In seeking to collapse boundaries between public education in Michigan Snyder wants to collapse boundaries not just between K-12 districts but between K-12 (and early childhood ed) and college or university life. Now, financially, as I have written before, this is Halloween scary, given that Michigan is dead last in terms of what it provides high education institutions, lagging behind such intellectual hotspots like zombie land Louisiana.
We are – financially and politically speaking – the walking dead of US higher education.
But in terms of curriculum I am more intrigued by the possibilities raised by the Governor’s proposals.
As a tenured professor in English at Wayne State University, one of three Research 1 universities in the state, and current Associate Dean of The Graduate School (the latter entity one of the two or three largest graduate schoosl in the country, constituted by 112 Master’s Programs and 53 PhD programs with roughly 7,000 total students – thanks Patch for the free advertising opportunity!) I want my two BHSD kids to be prepared not just for undergraduate life but for graduate or professional work.
I don’t need a School Board candidate or even a good high school teacher anxious about the regular flux of technological change in education -- a movement that extends from the invention of the silent reading, to the change from a manuscript to a print culture, and now the computer -- to tell me what that takes.
Rest assured: The proposed Fielding-Nair renovated site at Andover with its carefully planned spaces for collaboration and team teaching mirrors what any 21st century graduate student will need to compete. WSU has several nationally ranked PhD programs. I would highlight, in particular, Chemistry and an assortment of programs in our MD/PhD programs that train students to become physician/scientists. In both these programs, like all our programs, collaboration is not optional. No one stands alone – certainly not teacher/scholars/researchers.
Students, like the scientists they are to become, must work in teams and across disciplines. And they need appropriate spaces and facilities to conduct their research. Students literally need to learn the geography, as it were, of the lab or other academic space. Students fortunate enough to attend the renovated high school at the Andover site will benefit immeasurably from learning in a space that approximates “real world” research.
Here is a longish quote from The National Science Foundation (NSF http://www.nsf.gov/), the main funding agency for science research in the country. It gives you some sense of the profound need for the value of collaboration and interdisciplinary work. Increasingly, such interdisciplinary work extends into the humanities as we go “back to the future” when the currently exaggerated divide between science and the arts didn’t exist.
"NSF has long recognized the value of interdisciplinary research in pushing fields forward and accelerating scientific discovery. Important research ideas often transcend the scope of a single discipline or program. NSF also understands that the integration of research and education through interdisciplinary training prepares a workforce that undertakes scientific challenges in innovative ways. Thus, NSF gives high priority to promoting interdisciplinary research and supports it through a number of specific solicitations. NSF also encourages researchers to submit unsolicited interdisciplinary proposals for ideas that are in novel or emerging areas extending beyond any particular current NSF program."
So: If you want to run for SchoolBoard because you think you will keep your taxes low, I get it. If you want to run for SchoolBoard because you are mad about Pine Lake or Lahser closing or just don’t plain like some people, I get it. If you want to run for SchoolBoard because you believe in the state “reformers” that want control over BHSD – I am horrified – but I get it.
But don’t try to hide those motivations behind the mask of being interested in or informed about curriculum or the broad scope of education in the 21st century. As I tell my good natured second grader dressed as a ninja for Halloween – you look like a great second grader dressed as a ninja. He laughs because he knows what he looks like.
Please vote Baron, Day, and Herner Nov. 6. You can't go wrong with the local treasure Ms. Berndt either, of course! But I am betting on Herner to help get that renovation done for my daughter. Please, too, consider WSU for your grad studies:)