They Said It: Challenge the Status Quo
9/27/2012 By: Steven M. Baule, CIO Advisor
About two weeks ago, I saw the Blog Quote of the Day from Patricia Haughney, stating, “I try
to avoid teacher bashing. They’re overburdened. … …We have to give teachers more credit and
respect everyone’s expertise. Let’s honor each other.”
It was the end of a long day, when I had already had to sit through several meetings where a
variety of people were trying to get the district to spend more money to add staff, buy more of
something, etc. Most of the requests were legitimate and if the money were readily available, I
would love to have granted them. However, the money isn’t there. Unfortunately, I am not seeing an end to the
economic plights for schools, at least in Illinois, for several years.
The local paper that same day had articles about teachers needing to pay more for health insurance and
the plight of public pensions in Illinois. Ms. Haughney is correct. Simply blaming someone for our education
problems won’t solve them. Blaming hardworking teachers, principals, or even the IT staff won’t help at all.
It will continue to drive some of the best away and drive wedges between administrators, teachers, aides,
IT staff, and other educators. We need positive ideas and programming. Let’s leave the blame game to those
sitting on the sidelines. Those of us in schools, working with children and teachers, need to be positive.
We need the audacity to develop new programs and delivery models. We will occasionally fail at this. I
understand that is extremely difficult when we are educating children, but we do need to move forward in
I remember a time when 1:1 computing was an incredibly audacious idea that only the wealthiest of
schools would have considered. Today, I think more people are realizing it will eventually reach every
student and school, and quickly. We need to look back to history (a favorite pastime of mine) and embrace
those people who made this nation great and accomplished the most; they were bold. Teddy Roosevelt failed
miserably at trying to enforce the vice laws in New York City as a police commissioner. However, he didn’t
stop dreaming big and trying hard. After he
became president, the Panama Canal was
completed under his leadership, when others
had been considering how to build that canal
since at least 1535.
Einstein broke out of his box not by
trying to build on the work of his immediate
predecessors and make incremental progress
in physics, but by going back to revisit the work
of Isaac Newton from the 1600s. It was only
by challenging 250-year-old “givens” that
Einstein was able to move forward.
I am afraid we might be close to where
Einstein was. We need to go back and truly reinvestigate
a number of the “givens” in education.
Letting kids out to go work on the farm for 60
to 80 days each summer might not be necessary
anymore. Do the basic assumptions that Horace
Mann made in the 1830s and that most schools
still follow (consciously or unconsciously) make
sense for 21st-century learners?
Education is in desperate need of leaders
who can challenge accepted principles like
Einstein and dream audaciously like Teddy
Roosevelt. Challenging the status quo is
essential, since we can’t simply split that class
or hire an aide. We need to challenge how we do
everything in education and we need to be bold.
So everyone reading this should propose at
least one new bold idea or initiative to his or her
supervisor before the winter break. Good luck.
Steven M. Baule is superintendent of North
Boone CUSD 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. He has
written several books on aspects of library and
technology management and planning.