Waiting for Godot

by Jeanne Bernish on April 18, 2012

Fixing education is a frequent topic at panel events like the New York Ideas forum on public education. And who doesn’t love a little sparring between ideological adversaries? So I allowed myself a wry smile at the excellent Atlantic Wire post: In “Fixing Education: The Problems Are Clear But the Solutions Aren’t Simple.

The one thing all the panelist(s) could agree on is that the we can’t “wait for Godot” as Klein puts it. You also cannot try fixing the issues one at a time, as Anderson passionately insisted, like plugging holes on a sinking ship. You can’t work on parent engagement one year, and teacher training the next and look for a new principal the year after that and then expect a four-year high school student to see any benefit. Change must comprehensive and aggressive, because it takes 12 years to graduate, but only one to drop out.

The toughest thing about advocating on behalf of children in our public schools is the slow pace of change while the people who have the power to enact change talk about solutions. When you have a child who is on the verge of “unplugging” for any reason, hearing that we know the system isn’t ideal and that change is coming does not address the elephant sitting across the table from you at dinner – “what about those forced to make do while they wait for change to come?”

Waiting for Superman” was all about parents and students waiting to be rescued. “Waiting for Godot” implies no change at all – just a constant conversation about the waiting that keeps the “panel participants” engaged in an ongoing discussion. Having different sides of the aisle engaged in a constant state of symbiosis only benefits the existence of that state. It’s the Cold War all over again.

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