This week, one of my former education colleagues emailed me The Blueberry Story: A Businessman Learns a Lesson, by Jamie Robert Vollmer. This speech has been around for a few years, but has recently started appearing on various blogs and websites. Count Educating Suzanne among them.
Jamie Vollmer is a former CEO and attorney who now works to increase community support for America’s schools and build professional pride among educators. He’s written a book titled Schools Cannot Do It Alone (Enlightenment Press, 2010). I have not read the book yet, but it is now on my must-read list.
Mr. Vollmer starts out with the opinion that schools need to be managed and run like businesses. Have you ever heard that before? While talking to a group of teachers and presenting his opinions of how to improve schools, he had a transformation of thought when one teacher hit him with a challenging question:
I believe Mr. Vollmer is correct in his thinking when he states, “No generation of educators in history has been asked to do what Americans now demand of their public schools. Each year the burden grows, and each day millions of teachers and administrators give everything they’ve got to meet the challenge. Their record of achievement is remarkable. But no matter how hard they work, or how often they are criticized, they cannot produce the results our nation needs. Not because they are arrogant, overpaid, or unionized. America’s educators cannot ‘teach all children to high levels’ because they work in a system designed to do something else: Select and sort young people for an industrial society that no longer exists.
“First, we have a systems problem, not a people problem. We must change the system to get the graduates we need. Second, we cannot touch the system without touching the culture of the surrounding town; everything that goes on inside a school is tied to local attitudes, values, traditions, and beliefs.”
Thank you, Mr. Vollmer, for understanding that the problem with public education today cannot be laid solely in the laps of our teachers. Accountability should extend beyond classroom walls. Many children are “left behind” before they even walk through school doors.
What about making parents accountable for their children? We, as a nation, need to refocus on the importance of families—dads, moms and others—as a child’s first, and most important, teachers. We need to demand better quality blueberries.