What is the Role of Education? Part II

What is the Role of Education? Part II

What is the role of education? The answer is fundamental to education reform. The lack of a unified vision to this seemingly simple question is a clear sign of the growing discomfort with the status quo. However, so far, most suggestions have been different versions of the current system in trendy packages.

What is wrong with evaluating teachers’ performance? Nothing! It is necessary. In the public school system, there are many teachers harming our children because of incompetence and bullying. On the other hand, there are many phenomenal teachers. The latter are not the problem, and, unfortunately, very few of them teach in disadvantaged communities.

Incompetence comes in many shapes, which makes it imperative to find meaningful metrics for evaluating teachers’ performance. Teachers are crucial role models to our children. I believe that teachers need more diverse toolkits to accommodate the ever-enlarging repertoire of communication and learning styles in a culturally complex, global world. Cultural incompetence is a major obstacle to meaningful and productive communication and learning.

Our current system is replete with teachers whose cultures are vastly different from their students’. That’s okay! However, I find it outrageous that many teachers and educators have no awareness or understanding of their students’ culture, norms, values, and beliefs. That presents a challenge in building trusting relationships and positive school climates since language reflects one’s culture. In other words, children are not grasping all they can and should because of ineffective communication due to lack of cultural competence.

Another major problem with education is the lack of cultural inclusion or variety in our textbooks. Textbooks should be tailored to the community. Children should see their own faces in text books. Those faces should be leaders, not always bystanders. Children should learn about THEIR own cultures in the history books.

Instead, textbooks have further marginalized ethnic groups and reinforced stereotypes propagated daily by the media. Many disadvantaged children are taught the teachers’ values, norms and beliefs. In other words, they are taught to ASSIMILATE to Western Culture.

From an early age, the system dismiss minority cultures by not recognizing and valuing its people and their contributions.  No wonder these social programs don’t work! Their approach often crushes an entire communities’ values, norms, and beliefs. To make education relevant cultural competence is imperative.

A couple of the myriads of problems facing our educational system. What have we done? What we always do? We have wasted tax payers’ money on Standardized Testing and on evidence-based programs based on Western data and values.

Standardized tests are useful certification and competitive tools. However, these tests are given to children whose brains are still developing without cultural considerations, severely limiting their (tests) utility to predict  future cognitive abilities.  How easily  can the obsession with inappropriate testing, interpretation  and  big data  morph into Social Darwinism?

I doubt these tests serve much purpose except employment for those who benefit from the system, and  to  jumpstart labeling and stereotyping processes.

Standardized Testing is a technical fix that will never solve the adaptive problems within our educational system, such as the achievement and educational gaps, or break the vicious cycle of poverty. These and other problems are creating a growing groundswell of dissatisfaction among students, parents, teachers, educators, politicians, and businesses.

Ron Heifetz’s books on Adaptive Leadership provided insight and appreciation of the differences between technical problems and adaptive problems. The latter involves cultural and behavioral changes, a daunting, time-consuming process where discomfort and conflict are necessities.

Many evidence-based programs are useful in the contextual environment under which the studies were performed; here lies the importance of fidelity on implementation of these programs, and also in damning them to failure because each community is different with different priorities and belief systems. A one size fits all solution does not work.

Many schools implement evidence-based programs without any metrics to define success in their unique socio-physical environments. Instead,  evidence-based programs often get misused as some sort of proxy for the above-mentioned outcomes and other evaluation metrics. Metrics gauge the success of programs guiding future strategies, as well as early indicators on what works and what doesn’t.

Current, Educational metrics do not seem to capture the information we need to educate all children.

Parents’ failure to listen, and  participate– especially parents living in disadvantaged neighborhoods– will mean more of the same, and even worse.

Parents, trust your instincts!  Trust your knowledge of your child’s educational needs over the advice of the so-called “experts.”



Related article: What is the role of Education?



Our Education System is not preparing Our Children for College, the Workforce, and Life
Our Education System is not preparing Our Children for College, the Workforce, and Life

Author: Angela Grant

Angela Grant is a medical doctor. For 22 years, she practiced emergency medicine and internal medicine. She studied for one year at Harvard T. H Chan School Of Public Health. She writes about culture, race, and health.

4 thoughts on “What is the Role of Education? Part II

  1. Angela – While I agree with a lot of what you are saying about our educational system but I believe you have left out an integral part of the problem and that is the lack of commitment of parents. Ensuring your child has a fair shot in this world begins in the home. My children ‘hated’ me because school came before all else (socializing, sports, etc.). They are now productive members of society who can read and write beyond the 12th grade level. One is a college graduate – and he did this while working full time (swing shift no less) and being involved in his children’s lives. My other child was not college material – just that simple.

    As to the inner city problems, why aren’t cities held in contempt by the court systems for failure to ensure safe housing and for not going after the slum lords. Where’s HUD in all of this. Why aren’t neighborhoods banding together to sue the landlords of these rundown properties? There are a multitude of solutions but getting people on board is like pulling teeth without Novacaine – nigh on impossible and painful.

    In my humble opinion, culture has nothing to do with whether or not a child is successful. Parents instill the values of hard work and gainful employment. It is not the responsibility of the schools; they are there to teach, not to babysit.

    College is not for everyone but that’s all the government pushes; when did it become ‘shameful’ to work in the trades? This country needs well trained carpenters, welders, plumbers, auto mechanics and the like and they pay good money.

    Don’t even get me started about the media in all of it’s forms : >

    1. Hi Carol,

      Nice to see you here! I apologize for the delayed response. I can see we share this passion. You make solids points and I agree. Let me share my perspectives.

      Yes, parental engagement is pivotal to reinforcing children’s education. Inner city parents need to become more involved and in-tuned with their children’s education. Growing up, my mother, rarely, attended any parental meetings, at least none that I was aware of. Then again I was aware of no such meetings. However, that did not mean education was not valued in our family—far from it. It is also difficult for working parents who do not have the luxury of benefits.

      In many inner cities neighborhoods, majority of families are working poor. They share similar values and dreams for their children like rest of society. The stereotypes come from those few that dominate though their numbers are few. They make the headlines with violence stemming from illegal activities aimed at getting MONEY. This does not justify or condone these behaviors.

      Imagine living in a world socially abandoned by mainstream society (except for social programs— creating an invisible barrier. A world barren and sporadically overtaken by fear due violence. You have limited contact with mainstream society except through media and employment where you often feel the heavy hand of nuanced discrimination decimating your drive and energy. Add to that the trauma of personal experiences of violence and death along with those of friends and neighbors…

      For those living in that environment for generations, eventually, hope dies. Some can’t take care of themselves let alone take care of children. They are in need of support in the form of mentors and coaches who can guide them out of years of poverty through their children.

      As for Culture, it is often misunderstood. Culture is all your acquired experiences. It does not include genetics, although one can debate that point using epigenetics. 🙂

      Thank you for your well-thought out comment.

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