Critics Should Offer Solutions

save the earth

Need a quick headline in the media?  Attack public education.  Want to gripe about something in government?   Attack public education.  Have a business venture that needs cash influx?  Attack public education.  Attacking public education is becoming a hobby to some, and a profession to several others.

I have been critical over the years of many things in public education.  From lack of focus or poorly defined goals, disagreement with curriculum, to self-serving unions.  However, I have always tried to do what my mother always advised, “If you are going to criticize, offer a solution.”  Teddy Roosevelt blatantly made it clear, “It is not the critic who counts,” but rather “the man who is actually in the arena.”

Too many people want to simply condemn ideas, people, or society and offer nothing realistic in return.   Let’s be clear, there will never be a one size fits all model for public education and no single academic model can work in a diversified population in a state or nation.  That is why it is critical to have collaboration among educators, parents, citizens, and businesses to transform education at local levels based on the needs of each community.  That is real local control.

Students will always need to learn basic skills such as reading and writing, and education stakeholders and policymakers must help students understand the changing world around them.  That will mean many different things from the community to community, and state to state.  There is no debate that evolving technology is changing how we teach and learn.

No single method can accommodate all student learning needs.  Through technology, we can enable educators to provide to the unique needs of individual learners based on their readiness levels and student ability, which simply expands direct instruction to a more flexible and personalized approach to content delivery.  All instruction, including differentiated instruction, must be structured, sequenced, and led by teachers “directing” the instructional process.

A broader student-centered strategy built around personalization should increase the learning growth of all students.  The one-size-fits-all or teach-to-the-middle approach, expecting all students to do the same activity, work at the same pace, do the same homework, and take the same test hurts a significant portion of our students, especially when students lack the prerequisite skills.  In addition, personalization better serves the best and brightest students in our classrooms.  Technology must be an ally for modern educators in classroom instruction.

A degree in education should never be the basis for deliberating public education or offering an opinion.  However, common sense must prevail.  Too many critics of public education are focusing on the wrong things, using faulty information or do not have complete information.  More importantly, many critics are treading into areas in which they know little to nothing about, except by hearsay. This is dangerous.

That does not mean that public education is free from faults, or should not continue to transform and change. We must avoid the condition described by Alexander Pope about being “too vain to mend.”  All citizens should root for the success of public education if for no other reason than 90% of the children in our nation are educated by public schools.  We want our children to succeed and our economy to flourish in this changing world.  That message would make for much better headlines.


JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Exposed in a Technological Age

jc ed background

We are now the most photographed generation in history.  Many times, these pictures are made without the explicit permission of the people depicted.  Cell phones have made cameras a key feature, and many of these cameras are better quality than the best cameras of the past. Smartphones are also very capable video cameras.  Some professionals are shooting commercial grade videos and even some feature films on these devices.

Since almost everything can be instantly recorded, with multiple angles of the same event, any story can be altered producing more questions than they answer.  A different view, a different angle changes the whole story.  Videos may not always be what they seem.  Then these pictures and videos show up online across different platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Wikipedia, personal blogs and even more.  Subjects like voyeurism, privacy laws, freedom of media, and surveillance are now issues we are forced to debate.  Technology has drastically changed the way we use information and communicate with one another.

Our words are not immune either.  Once words are said, can be only forgiven, not forgotten.  And when they are recorded, either in print or in audio or video, they can frequently be quoted, but usually misquoted.  Taken out of context, our unguarded words can be misused and used against weapons against us.  We have seen decades old comments surface and hurt the people who uttered the comments, both fairly and unfairly.  It is the age we now live in.  While secret recordings are rarely a good idea, people must also understand they do not always have an expectation of privacy.  We now live in a dangerous world created by our own words and modern devices.  Add social media to the mix and words you write today could come back and haunt you many years later. We are truly exposed in this technological age.

An old and wise saying challenges us to: “Believe nothing you hear, half of what you read, and some of what you see.”  It is critical to examine issues from all angles, rejecting gossip, mistruths, bias or information not supported or misinterpreted.  Put what you see or read into proper context to make sure what you think you are seeing is factual.  Too often social media will portray people falsely and in a highly offensive manner.  The entire purpose of some is to create a false impression and injure your reputation. You may need to review the pertinent laws and likely consult with an attorney in some cases.

Schools have been forced to consider cell phone usage policies. Students have used camera phones for nefarious purposes, from exposing teachers for inappropriate comments to taking or viewing pictures of tests in order to cheat on an exam.  Many of these recordings end up on social media.  We have had educators defamed by tech savvy parents and students.  Professional Educators of Tennessee has had to intervene on their behalf.  Fortunately, most school districts work with our organization to protect educators.  In one case, a parent, unhappy with their child’s very deserved grade, targeted the business of a spouse of an educator on social media.  School districts need to keep current policies and update them as technology changes.

This too raises the legal question: can educators and administrators search student phones in order to find incriminating text, photo, and video content?   Technology-related debates will probably only escalate.  It may soon be a smart option for educators to simply just record themselves teaching during the school day in order to protect their image and reputation.   It is a sad reality but that is where we have come as a society. Educators should behave as though they are always being recorded. This is the technological age we now live in.


JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Cartoons in the Classroom

I write:  “Without outside assistance, communities across America simply cannot keep up with technology challenges, either from an economic standpoint or an access standpoint. That is why open-source and donated cloud technology has begun to find greater accepted use in classrooms across America.”

I was honored to write a chapter for the book Cartoons in the Classroom, with Ilya Spitalnik an internationally recognized thought leader, keynote speaker, entrepreneur  and technology adviser.  Ilya created PowToon to assist educators.   PowToon’s commitment to provide technology to educators, as well as their customized tutorials can help educators more effectively integrate cartoons into their teaching methods. You can download the book for free at