"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Missouri's Eyes Are Back On Joplin As They Start The School Year

One of the realities of a recession is that it forces companies to scrutinize every aspect of their business and identify waste and inefficiency. It forces the evaluation of existing norms. Hardship spurs creativity and innovation. The good news (or bad news depending on how you look at it) is that recession teaches companies how much they can pare back their workforce and capital expenditures yet still make a profit. For most companies, once those cost saving measures are instituted, they tend to stick around, even after the economy bounces back. After all, who chooses to add padding back to their budget?

The EF5 tornado that tore through city of Joplin Missouri forced them to re-evaluate their norms and look for innovation in education. It is a testament to their resilience that they have found the means to open the school year for their students just 87 days after several of their school buildings were damaged and their high school was destroyed by the storm. Utilizing an empty shopping mall, an unused school building and even a MODOT building, they have offered their students a sense of continuity in extremely tumultuous times.

See Video Here

Certainly it will be stressful, as the one teacher said. It will be a little disorienting for the students. A free laptop courtesy of the United Arab Emirates, one of the few examples of a foreign government coming to the aid of the United States, will go a long way towards easing some of that stress. (We should keep an eye on what, if any, quid pro quo is expected from that generosity.)

It will be interesting to watch Joplin this year to find out what parts of their existing education system were not missed, what parts suffered from either their absence or alteration and, which of these changes forced by circumstance, become permanent. We may gain a better understanding of how adaptive both students and teachers are; how much or how little state of the art facilities matter; or what role the home situation plays in student success. What is likely to come out of this forced “experiment” is a deeper appreciation of the role community plays in educating its children.

Joplin may prove to be one of the most significant towns in America as they demonstrate what the local community can do for themselves, even when the deck seems stacked against them.

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