STRAIGHT TALK: School change can happen, without hate-filled rhetoric


When I think about education and recall my time in school, I have some great memories. I also have some less-than-stellar memories, but don't we all, if we are honest with each other?

I believe many of us have come to question whether those students who go to school today are provided with the same opportunities we had. I'm not talking about the facilities, equipment or the quality of teachers. We spend more per capita on education than any other developed nation in the world.

Despite that spending, U.S. students seem to lag behind many of their rivals on the international stage.

Today in this country we are locked in a great debate about the implementation of a new set of standards in education known as Common Core. It has provoked a spirited debate on teaching, testing and what standards are important

What is particularly offensive to me is the impression that the federal government was dangling the carrot of more financial aid to states that adopt these new standards as their own. This set off the inevitable debate over who should be setting the benchmarks for students – a bureaucrat in Washington or the states and local school boards.

It didn't take long for the rhetoric to heat up and the predictable hurling of insults back and forth. The proposal became so heated in Florida that the administration tried re-packaging the issue and renaming the proposal "The Florida Standards." That effort didn't succeed and the opposition to the new standards continues to grow.

The debate rages not only here in Florida and Collier County, but throughout the country. There is no parent in this nation that doesn't want his or her child to be prepared for college or a career field when he or she graduates from high school, so the desire to set high standards has never been in question.

One of the major complaints we continue to hear revolves around "teaching to the test." This has been a criticism we've heard now for a number of years. Friends of mine who stayed in education have voiced this concern when we've spoken about old times and shared what was happening in our lives.


I've always believed as a teacher it was my primary responsibility to stimulate the mind of the student to learn, by making the subject matter interesting and challenging. A child's mind is like a sponge and will absorb knowledge.

We are lucky here on Marco to have so many fine educators and staff members to support that environment of learning. At Tommie Barfield Elementary School, Marco Island Charter Middle School and now Marco Island Academy we are setting our own bars for excellence at the local level. This is something that should be encouraged and not frowned upon. Our successes here set an example for others and gives me hope we'll find our way out of this terrible mess.

The debate over these issues came to our own city council a couple of weeks ago, and I believe council acted in a professional manner, recognizing that the responsibility for addressing those issues should be with the elected officials on the school board and with citizen participation, not nasty emails and negative letters to the editor.

All of this can be accomplished without hate-filled rhetoric, but with reason and dedication to our responsibilities to this next generation and those yet to come. It is our responsibility to leave something behind better than what we've found it, and what better legacy than a well-educated generation of citizens to take us to the next millennium.