Since we’re living in “unprecedented” (are you tired of that word yet) and “challenging” (euphemism much) times, I’ve been thinking a lot about the alternative timeline we could have been living in. I’ve also been thinking quite a bit about policy, advocacy, philanthropy, and the power dynamics of education in this country. All of this combined with the disappointing “Marvel’s What If . . .?” series on Disney+, led me to start blogging again. So here it is, you get my late night thoughts about policy, philanthropy and possibility.

What if . . . access and advocacy weren’t disassociated
What if access organizations, instead of replicating and perpetuating the systems they help under-resourced students navigate, challenged and changed those systems. It seems that access organizations, which work directly with students, have the data and knowledge to move the organizations they work with and to inform the public of the challenges their students face.

In my alternate universe, Prep for Prep, A Better Chance, Oliver Scholars, Wight Foundation, et al would release data on their students and challenge colleges to talk more risks on students who do not pass through their programs. These programs are great a demonstrating that students from all walks of life can be successful with the right support and guidance, but it seems that the implicit argument these programs make is that their program is the key rather than their program was simply the path. What if all access organization put changing the system for the better at the center of their mission?

What if . . . philanthropy and policy weren’t linked
Imagine if colleges weren’t businesses. Imagine if think tanks were funded primarily by the government. Imagine if private donations to influence research, policy, and programming was banned. How would that change what was researched? How would that change what policies became standard? How would that change who was admitted to college?

The strings currently attached (both implicitly and explicitly) to philanthropic gifts seem to drive high speed stagnation in society. Would Tulane, William and Lee, and Stanvard look different if they didn’t have buildings named after donors with living children applying? Would admissions to highly rejective colleges change if they weren’t concerned with admitted students who will in the future continue to fund their endowment?

What if . . . educational institutions believed not in selectivity/rejectivity but in educating?
I’ve been playing with the thought of a universe where the educational institutions we considered the best, were the ones that help students most. Not the ones that showed the most bling. Not the ones that did the best job attracting students who need the least help being successful. Places that actually took pride in the ability to teach everyone, no matter where they started.

When I think of an educational institution I think of a place that values teaching and learning, but what we seem to currently have on Earth-1 is educational systems that scramble for bragging rights. Places that scramble to get students someone else prepared to be successful and to take credit when they actually are successful. That’s not education, thats simply non-stoppage. That’s a jockey taking all the credit for winning the Kentucky Derby.

We admitted these students who achieved all these great things before they got to us!”

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What if . . . we all advocated for better systems not individual benefits
Dig if you will a picture of you and I engaged in fighting for a system that’s better for all children. A system that removed roadblocks, not because my kids can’t navigate them but because other kids less fortunate than mine couldn’t. Imagine recognizing that application fees are a barrier for many/most families even if they are not for me. Testing, especially in the last few decades, is more reflective of resources in the home than knowledge in the brain.

Like imagine if College Board and ACT came out and said, “Nah Auburn, you’re using test scores all wrong in how you’re awarding credit based on test scores.” or “Test scores should never be used as a criteria in the placement of Amazon’s headquarters, thats looney toons and anti-science.” I know I’m dreaming if I think there is a world where a private testing agency would actually strongly advocate for less use of their core product, but I dream of a world where Pearson actually stood by this statement, which was posted on their site in 2019 (but if they did that NYC Public Schools wouldn’t use the SHSAT as the sole criteria for admissions).

Pearson understands that concerns around the role of assessments are varied and real. We believe that quality assessments are useful to the learning experience, but they are just one measure of the knowledge and skills that learners need. They do not, and will never, completely define the sum total of what a good​ ​education ought to provide.”

Retrieved May 2nd 2019, pearson.com, Our Position On Assessment

But I guess its more likely that we’ll get Captain Carter as Captain America, and T’Challa as Starlord than any of the above would happen. But I can dream and I can play What If . . .

2 thoughts on “What if . . . thoughts on education

  1. “When I think of an educational institution I think of a place that values teaching and learning, but what we seem to currently have on Earth-1 is educational systems that scramble for bragging rights.” This tells me you have a hole in your understanding of universities. Yes, popular teachers are patted on the back, but professors in science/math write for grants. Grants bring prestige and potential high caliber students as well as significant gains in knowledge and understanding. Surely you’ve heard the old axiom, publish or perish. So if you’re not a scientific researcher, you are pursuing greater academic goals, such as contributing to a deeper understanding of academic subjects in the humanities. In other words, teaching students is secondary. Always has been. What if the real question is why college?

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    1. From what I understand of your comment, you misunderstood my point while making it for me.

      My point was that placing the quest for grants primary and students secondary is a problem if the goals of universities is teaching. If the goal is teaching all systems should place teaching (and learning) first. No student applies to college so that they can be ignored by “professors” who are there for greater academic goals than serving the students.

      Our current system is flawed and mismarketed if it continues to tells student one thing but do another.

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