A nationally known author told some 450 educators at an education conference in Sun Valley last week that public support is eroding for the nation’s public education system.
Jamie Vollmer, recognized as an award-winning champion of public education and author of the book “Schools Cannot Do It Alone,” was Thursday’s keynote speaker at the 20th annual Idaho State Prevention & Support Conference held last Thursday and Friday at the Sun Valley Inn. The event was organized by the Idaho State Department of Education, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Serve Idaho, a division of the Idaho Department of Labor.
In his address, Vollmer warned educators that the nation’s public school system may be gone within 10 years if public support continues to wane.
“There are measurable signs that the public is going away from public support of public education,” he said.
Vollmer said 75 percent of adults in the United States do not have children in school and it is increasingly difficult to convince them that a good education is best for the nation.
He said the school systems must better engage the public to achieve what he called the “four prerequisites for progress: community understanding, trust, permission and support.”
As an example of misunderstanding, Vollmer said a standard public perception is that teachers don’t work hard and are basically lazy.
“You have neighbors who think that today,” he said, noting that the reality is that most teachers are dedicated and work about 60 hours per week.
Not only must the public school system regain public support, Vollmer said the system must be changed so that students aren’t left behind.
“You now stand before the most distracted students the world has ever seen,” he said. “You could all work 100 hours a week and not get it all done.”
Vollmer said the existing school system is “not focused on bringing out the potential of all students” and that students who are slower learners “tend to get pushed to the back of the room.”
“Our system is designed to sort and select people,” he said. “We don’t have a people problem, we have a system problem. We have to fix the system so the every single child finishes.
“In the 21st century, every student must graduate.”
Vollmer said that people who don’t have an education tend to be burdens to society.
“We end up taking care of them or we’re afraid of them,” he said. “In the 21st century, undereducated people are desperate people, and desperate people are dangerous.”
The two-day conference included sessions on suicide prevention, giving hope to children in need, building strong community coalitions for school support, alcohol and drug use prevention, and school security.
There were also sessions on dealing with stress, understanding students with emotional disturbances, helping students with social skills and changing students’ mindset about the importance of education.
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org