A Radical Approach? (by Guest Blogger Casey Martin)


PinkFloyd-TheWallThroughout my time spent and participation in Zapoura’s class on enhancing literacy I have since learned very much about the education system. We as a class have been given a multitude of resources to information that is all interconnected with problems that lace and muddle the education system like an ugly cobweb. We’ve looked at troubles with the achievement gap, the DREAM act, No Child Left Behind, and so on. We couldn’t cover everything but I know that I can say confidently that I understand the education system far better than I did before I took this class. I understand the politics more, the financial dispersement of government funds, and how all of these troubles are piling up faster than they can be sorted out. This week, we see articles regarding cultural integration and acceptance in progressing the lessons that are used to teach and enrich our children and teens in schools now. We were also presented with several home pages to organizations that are geared toward equity on a grand scale for parents; organizations such as The Mother PAC, Out Portland Our Schools, Save Our Schools, The Open Book Project, and so on. After reflecting on these given articles and links, I thought, “Wow. This is really great! Seeing all of these organizations is empowering and makes me feel like there are an awful lot of people working toward a better education system in a healthy and a non-radical way through their local governments all grassroot style. I like that!” But then I couldn’t help but think, “So, yeah, they’re peaceful and progressive and that’s awesome but… makes me wonder if there should be more radical groups as well; groups geared toward striking and refusal to participate in order to address problems more directly.” I started thinking that a radical direction may not be a bad idea in some aspects. Imagine the current issue of standardized testing. Imagine if some schools didn’t take it at all or collectively “bombed” the test in order to send a big fat “0” to the feds. How would they react? It would be like a boycott.


After Some Thought, I Reach More Speculation

I looked at some of these organizations, some of which have been established since 1999 and not a lot has changed in the education system since then in terms of what the organizations were established for. The government doesn’t have to worry about these organizations because they are being fair and diplomatic; but is the government being fair? I don’t think so.

Why do we go to school? So we can achieve our goals and contribute to society with a given interest, talent, and skill that is formed through the use of several basic skills like math, science, literature, history, and so on. Why must we put so much worth into the degree system though when there are so many problems with it? Because it works. Does it work well? Compared to what?



I would love to see all of the goals met by these organizations and I would love to see the education system change in a very dramatic and profound way. I just don’t see that happening without a little radical push. I have always believed that everyone should do what makes them happy as long as they are not hurting anyone. I happen to love writing, literature, music and visual art. I also am finding that I have a natural interest in building things and electronics (I’m rebuilding a 1964 Acoustic Research TX model turntable and I’m way more excited about it that most would be). Growing up, I would have loved to have been noticed more and guided with my natural ability to write well, make up stories, and draw. I would have loved to go to a school that focussed on those studies so that I could develop them and thrive. Instead, I was forced to keep grades above a C in subjects that I had zero interest in. I feigned interest and lied to myself in order to get through them. On top of that, I observed a system built on structured curriculum that didn’t seem to give teachers a lot of flexibility in their lessons compared to the university system where the professors seem to have “free reign” in comparison and it works quite well; in my opinion, far better!

Observations at Parkrose High School

While working at Parkrose High School as a tutor after school and as an in-class tutor for students learning English as a second language, I notice often that students are having very much difficulty thoroughly digesting their lessons because of the class time being so short. Many of them wish that the classes were longer having an “A” and a “B” day schedule like they apparently had the previous year where they had 3 classes per day rather than seven that would rotate much like having a Monday and Wednesdayschedule as opposed to a Tuesday and Thursday schedule in college.

I also see quite a number of “minorities” and because of that, the school has embraced a very diverse approach to teaching (at least in the classes that I have observed which are few). Working with these students has begun to hone my interest in teaching and it has given me a much better experience based understanding of what it means to be a teacher. I am happy to be a part of this Capstone. I have learned so much in so little time and I feel like changing the government is as easy as persistence comes and maintains. I feel my power now as an individual and it feels good.



I want to know your (my readers) opinions on radical movements to change education. I do not feel the government is being fair and that it is in fact being quite negligent to our precious students who should be one of our greatest priorities. I do not think being fair to something that is unfair is a very progressive response for dramatic change in these dire situations that need immediate attention, I feel.


18 thoughts on “A Radical Approach? (by Guest Blogger Casey Martin)

  1. Well Casey, that is a huge issue. The problem of education in this country is clearly connected to the way the government has alienated itself from the people, and vice-versa. Within this paradigm you can be as radical as you want, and nothing good will come out of it, because the mechanisms of control and repression are already there.

    The most progressive thing to do now is to look at the past. The Constitution of this country is without a question the greatest liberal document in the history of the world, and I as a foreigner wish my own home country had had the same luck as you guys. So why neglect it so?

    My radical approach would be home schooling. Educate a generation in the wisdom of the past. A generation that looks at the past only as an accumulation of mistakes to be corrected in the present is a generation without a future.

    • That’s a great point. Great historical feats are only an accumulation of a popular decision(s) executed at an individual level. I love the global perspective too. That is always relevant, I believe. If I ever had children, I would absolutely home school them. Compared to past classic educations, our modern American education is outrageously stunted. I have a conspiracy theory that says that it’s in order to keep the public only smart enough to get a job and do it but not to make any changes to the power structure in this country.

      I think the argument against homeschooling regarding the child’s social activity is ridiculous. There is way too much argument that can be made against it (social interaction doesn’t ONLY happen at school).

      I think one reason that public school sticks around and struggles to do so is that it’s what we’ve always had and so it’s familiar and we’re used to it. I think we find it easier to fix what we already have than to just chuck the moldy old idea and start from scratch.

      • Homeschooling all the kids would be a radical change for sure, except for the fact that not everybody can afford to home-school their kids (whether it be time or money or the means), which would mean a lot of kids not going to school. And this could potentially mean that a lot teachers would be out of work, as least in the public forum.

        *This is not a stab at home-schooling.

      • I agree with Lisa. Some parents may also not be well-versed in the ways of going about teaching a child and what curriculum to cover. Homeschooling is not a bad thing, but I don’t see it being a possibility for everyone.

  2. @Lisa Cha

    Well, I always imagined that teachers could teach in private home school environments like a “school house” similar to the way that house concerts are held. As far as getting paid, that’s tricky. There may need to be new unions made and their pay may need to be regulated by the parents and local communities donations and through some other means perhaps. I think that might be where the sacrifices come in. Teachers may have to work at other alternative schools OR open up their own schools. The government may retaliate at some point requiring that students attend public schools or try to manipulate the people to go to public schools. I’m not sure. I know not everyone can afford to home school their kids but I still don’t think that means that public school is the only option though it’s a mighty convenient one.

  3. Do you ever wonder if this is why there haven’t been any radical approaches? I agree with everything you are saying. I wonder though if even the most passionate person who wants to see a change could take on such a huge task. While reading your post and then the comments its like an emotional up and down. “Yes homeschooling! thats a good idea. I wonder why more people don’t try that” Then after reading the replies about everyone not having the time or money to do homeschooling it’s like “oh yeah, good point”. (In my head this makes sense, Sorry if it doesn’t”. I know this has happened before in some of our class discussions where you think you have a good idea, and then someone has a “yes, but…” and it’s a valid point that is probably why something already hasn’t been done about an issue. Now I feel like I’m just rambling, so I guess what I am trying to say is that issues with education and the education system are so huge that it’s exhausting to even try to think where to start to make a change. Grassroots movements is my “class discussion” topic and I had some of the same questions while reading about all the organizations. They are great organizations, and have amazing goals that I hope get reached. However, I wonder in the big picture how much of a difference they are actually making. Maybe thats where it starts though? Maybe a big radical change is too big? Maybe starting small in these organizations is the first step in hopes of something bigger.

    • Active interaction is how I learn. I have social anxiety and find it difficult to progress my opinions if I’m only internally processing everything. I have a strong view of how I would like to see things. Whether my visions work or not isn’t the issue. It’s the fact that I am approaching them in the way that I do. I never start out with an inarguable point of view. I think that’s pretty arrogant to come up with an opinion and not to consider someone else’s and agree with others or try their perspectives. I’m sure if THIS is making sense. Anyway. I still consider myself someone that isn’t afraid to think about radical approaches. I don’t believe that there are problems too big to solve. Individual engagement is the problem. Everything is solvable. It’s just the ethics that come into question and have to be balanced. I am a very emotionally driven person. And yes, I believe that I could take on this problem. I’m a writer and a very driven one. I have a lot of world problems that I would love to contribute in solving. I also believe if more people were passionate they might see more change too. It’s the lack of passion that disturbs me.

  4. Baby steps, you can not put the horse before the cart….or whatever!
    This is how big changes happen, people start with a small idea of change that others agree with and collectively it evolves into a greater change than imagined. Those who start out with unreachable goals to entirely reform a system often feel defeated when they reach unbeatable road blocks. This is because even though our education system may be public, is it unfortunately not up to the public to decide how our schools are ran or even have a say in its curriculum as we are using an ancient model for infrastructure. This is where the frustration lies for parents, students, and even teachers as they want to play more of a role in the decision making process of what is taught in todays progressive society, hence the charter school hype.

    As far as home schooling goes, personally I think it is not an option for me or my kids unless we were living on a desolate farm and there was no bus provided for school pick ups. There is too much to learn from the socialization with piers and the tasks of sharing, forming lines, waiting your turn, raising your hand, getting ideas from your partner or reading groups, competitive assessments or games, and library access. (I got involved in my third grade times tables because my teacher made it a competitive, but fair game that everyone wanted to win. This also gave us students personal academic goals to reach for and piers to admire mathematically, which in turn they became our tutors, learning to teach at the same time, making their performance that much stronger too.)
    That is not to say that a well equipped parent could not cover all of these bases as a home schooling professional, but it would take a super parent to do the research on comprehension, learn it themselves, then teach it, buy the books, supplies, and take the time off of work to teach their kids. Its unrealistic and works best when there is no other option only. That is my opinion.
    Also what would we do with all of the teachers, principals, and Aids left over after we took away an entire job market that makes up over 10% of a states employment rate? This is not the solution. The solution lies within the reform collectively decided by each state and its participants within the system, directly. This change must happen slowly.

  5. This is an interesting question and I’m sure it is one that many people have thought about. I am all for change and making that happen, especially in schools. But, I’m not sure a radical approach would be the best one. We’ve had our fair share of strikes in the Portland-Metro area but our schools are still rated at sub-par. I think organizations that are trying to change things peacefully are great because the passion is there, despite not being very radical. I believe it will take a lot of people standing up for education, especially the policy makers, to make anything happen. I do see the need for change, just like you do, but I can’t say that a radical approach would work best right now.

  6. I’m glad someone asked this question because I’ve been wondering about myself. I wondered why some people in class and online have come up with great ideas for change. I’m sure people have been coming up with wonderful ideas for years, but school looks a lot like it did years and years ago. I wish more “radical” ideas would be more successful. By radical, I don’t mean nutty, I mean ideas that bring about great and necessary change. I even wondered from our conversations in class if it all comes down to money. Some people had good ideas about changes, but it would always be pointed out that changes cost money. I wonder what would happen if we focused funds on new things, stopped funding things that don’t work well, and slowly phase them out. For some reason I feel like things aren’t changing as they should because maybe enough voices aren’t being heard by the right people and the money is not going where it should. Schools have become nearly untouchable machines still in need of tune-ups.

  7. Casey, over the history of the public school system there has always been change. Both by the state and by the teachers to adapt to new curriculum and support the resources that students need to be “successful” in school. Today I see it has the failing of both parties to adapt and change to support students. As we looked into the No Child left Behind and the Dream Act. Students are not being the number one priority in the public school system and educational policies that are being passed are not being supported by the teachers ( some policies may be overboard and not a realistic approach), but the fact of matter is the educational system is failing the students! A radical movement would be for the teachers and school board members to get together and realistically produce policies that both sides are willing to work together on.

  8. Katie I think the educational system has been doing too many baby steps in the last decade or so. And the system needs to take some big steps in eduction to produce some change that is in favor of the students and not just policies that are for politicians.

  9. Chelsea, I also wonder why the public does not hear new radical ways that education can be improved. I would have to think that they are being brought up in conversation and feel that they should be presented to the public to get feedback from parents and teachers on how their children should be supported in the educational system.

  10. I absolutely agree with you Casey. After sitting in Zaoura’s class thgese last several weeks on Enhancing Youth Literacy, though i do have a better understanding of the details and the playters’part in what goes on in regards to making decisions for schools, it is difficult to look at some of the laws and other rules that have been put in place to help schools and what they can really do to improve the schools. I mean, don’t get me wrong, a lof of Acts and Ammendments that took place for schools make sense where the goals and objectives are concerned, but the problems are beominmg so great in numbers and frequencies as well as becominmg intermingled so that you can tell that the schools are alo being harmed. There have been a couple times that they I have really thought about the ideas that were taught in this class, and it seems like the governmnent is digging a hole so deep that with the problems they are causing as wll as trying to repair, that i don’t know if we can ever dig ourselves out so the schools and students could really benefit. It doesn’t look like that will be happening though, from what i’ve learned so far about the situation, and it will take awhile before we can straighten out the mess that’s become our schools.

  11. I think it would be really hard for a radical and assertive group to gain any traction in education reform because of the general public’s lack of interest in seeing STRUCTURAL change in the education system. I think the average parent/community member places the blame for poor education on the teachers and school districts, which is a belief that is only further perpetuated when we see school districts making “Bone Headed” decisions in an effort to stretch their funding.
    It is my current hope that A SCHOOL DISTRICT will become the “radical” agent of change, pushing back on State and Federal Govt. by saying, “we will not offer a balanced budget by laying off teachers, stripping social supports and creativity enriching programs. Instead we will create the school that will have the best outcomes for students, staff it appropriately, and force the govt. to be creative in fully funding the system.” I realize this would require tremendous sacrifice, but it is my hope.

  12. Wow, Martin, you bring up so many questions. Like what *would* happen if every school bombed the tests? how would the government take that? Why *do* we have a degree based system? most jobs have training, so what is the need for this excessive in depth knowledge? where did we get a degree based system from anyway? what is it based off of? so many more questions pop-ed into my mind while reading your post. Questions that i had never contemplated until now. Especially the comparison between the Ridged High school setting and the Easy going college one. I too agree the later has it better. i personally found myself enjoying learning in college a lot better then in high school.

    Anyway, about your question on our opinions as to a radical movement, i think it may be necessary. in another class that i took at PSU called Sex and the Family, i learned about the Family System Theory (FST) which can be applied to any type of social interaction. one of the things that it states is that change in a system can only occur in one of two ways. One, slowly over a great period of time, which i see is whats kind of going on to our educational system, except its going down hill as apposed to up. And two, sudden change due to a shocking event. This is where the radicals come in. they provide the shocking event that would hopefully produce a positive change. Systems oppose change unless something forces them too. similar to one of newtons three laws, an object in motion stays in motion until a force acts upon it.

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