Where’s Waldo?

In the Preface to Why School, Mike Rose characterizes his timeless book as a “series of appeals for bighearted social policy and an embrace of the ideals of democratic education–from the way we define and structure opportunity to the way we respond to a child adding a column of numbers.” Why has Rose written such a book? Because according to him, “we have lost our way” (p. ix).

It’s 2017, and we’re reading the 2014 second edition of Why School?, which was originally published in 2009. In the years since, however, Rose’s original assertion hasn’t changed: “…we have lost our way” in recognizing and doggedly pursuing the ideals of education in a public democracy and providing equity and access to all students in reaching them.

It’s as if we’re playing a giant game of “Where’s Waldo?,” and no one can find the guy in the striped shirt and the blue hat who’s sitting right there in the middle of the picture.

Why is that the case? Have we lost our way in education? And what can you as an American citizen, who is studying to become a teacher, do about it?

In your response to my post here, share the lines you recorded from Why School? and respond to them in light of the questions in the previous paragraph. Share YOUR voice so all of us can hear it. Then maybe, just maybe, we can find Waldo together.



17 thoughts on “Where’s Waldo?

  1. blogessor says:

    What the heck are you talking about?

  2. Emily says:

    I do not believe we have lost our way in education, because we are self-aware enough to know that changes must happen within our system. Rose hits the nail on the head when he describes the hit-or-miss environment of a classroom: “I’ve experienced classrooms as both places of flat disconnection and of growth and inspiration.” (35) As a future teacher, I will strive to never except a classroom of “flat disconnection,” and instead push creativity daily. It’s not up to students to decide the mood of their classes; yes, they can definitely help or hurt the mood already established by the teacher, but that’s the point: *already* established by the *teacher.* It will be my responsibility to decide each morning how to facilitate learning in a healthy and optimistic environment. So, you want to know “where’s Waldo?” He’s hiding in us future teachers.

  3. eatonad says:

    Ayla Eaton

    “Though we pride ourselves as a nation of opportunity and a second chance, our social policies can be terribly ungenerous.” page X

    Despite the fact that this sentence was published for the first time in 2009, the words remain steadfast and true. Although the obvious comparison would be to the american economic and political state, they can be twisted to fit the question of ‘how has education changed and what form does it currently take?’

    In my opinion the process of education at the middle and high school level, the level at which I am studying to teach, has drifted far from what is best for the student. Teachers are forced by higher up to focus more on testing the knowledge of the student, and although these board members and superintendents believe this is the best way to measure both the students mind and the teachers ability, it has shown that the opposite is true. Instead teachers wander from in-depth lectures on their subject that will eventually guide the student way through the world, and onto specific and gregarious attention to certain topics that the students will be tested on in these standardized exams. Teachers live in fear that these tests will deem them unable and students worry these tests will deem them unworthy.

    Instead we as teachers need to focus on individual students and their learning styles and comfort zones. Not all students do well on test despite their excellence on classwork or vis versa. An exam cannot accurate measure the knowledge of a student nor the ability of a teacher. As a future teacher I hope to have the ability to focus on the students and not the tests they are being forced to take.

  4. Elise Levine says:

    So unfortunately, since I am still trying to figure out all of CSU’s technology I didn’t have the book information until Monday, so I haven’t received my books yet. I should have them later today though so by next class I will definitely be all caught up with the readings.

    I would definitely agree with Rose though in the fact that “we have lost our way” in education. So often there is no equity in funding to (public) schools so many students’ education are suffering and have suffered due to lack of up-to-date resources and methods of teaching. Schools teach to the standardized tests, many of which are extremely biased, rather than teaching students the tools to find out information and come to conclusions on their own. Public schools have been around for so long, but the basic format of them really hasn’t changed what-so-ever despite various theories and practices that have arisen to improve the way we teach students.

    The best thing currently is to spread information about the inequalities within our education system so more and more people realize the major issues going on and attempting to begin fixing them.

  5. As an educator, I aspire to encourage my students to love learning. As Mike Rose says in ‘Why School,’ “we’ve narrowed the purpose of schooling to economic competitiveness, our kids becoming economic indicators. And we’ve reduced our definition of human development and achievement- that miraculous growth of intelligence, sensibility, and the discovery of the world- to a test score” (x). I want to show students that learning is not a competition, but a process of self-discovery and a way to craft themselves into socially-responsible human beings. I want education to teach students to love themselves, and to embrace their abilities and strengths. We use education as a measurement to compare ourselves to others, when I believe that it should be used as a betterment for the individual mind and the crafting of a more harmonious and caring society.

    Equity and access play a major role in encouraging this evolution of education.

  6. Ryan M. says:

    “Ours is the land of opportunity — that phrase is a core part of our national story.”
    A large part of opportunity is an even playing field and opportunities to advance one self in small steps so that in a larger sense we take advantage of the ‘American Opportunity’ or ‘American Dream.’ You know, that ‘pull yourself up from the bootstraps mentality. What I wonder is if we have truly lost our way or if we have never found it and the social justice movements of the past and present are just a very slow form of path-finding. We have this notion that the current system of ‘opportunity’ is filled with barriers to people of different demographics and tats is undeniably true, but to say we have lost our way implies that we once walked the path of equity. From my understanding of history I would say this is definitely not true and in a lot of senses today we do more than in the past to bring down these barriers, but we have expanded our perspective to view the opportunity for more than just middle and upper class white men and now that we see that it is and has always been flawed. As a future teacher it is my goal and my responsibility to bring equity to my classroom in any way that I can so that every student has an equal chance to succeed in my classroom and beyond, a lofty goal when considering the barriers that teachers themselves face.

  7. I believe that education should have the ultimate goal of inspiring children to become learners not only in the classroom, but also in the real world. However, in a world dominated by an increasingly political motivation behind everything, schooling has become almost the antithesis of this concept. Being nineteen, I just finished high school a year ago in the IB program and remember well the feeling of being merely a statistic; only a pawn in my school district’s game of receiving more funding fro the state. In Rose’s Introduction, he states, “we also believe that the testing program alone will correct political and bureaucratic stagnation and compensate for the need for teacher development or for the burdens poor kids bring to school,” (page 7). This quote, along with several other remarks throughout this piece takes this complex fabric of educational bureaucracy and brings it to light in a concise form, which is why it stood out to me so much. Given our current political climate, Rose’s work holds incredible significance to all of us, not only in our lives as Americans, but as the future educators of America. Education has shifted to a focus on economics and teaching students how to achieve the highest test scores rather than to enjoy learning about this world we inhabit. I believe that we have indeed lost our way in education and the only way to fix it is from the ground up– starting with us. As future teachers we need to take our experiences and our knowledge and apply it to our classrooms. We need to stop treating our students as numbers and start treating them as learners. Treat them as people who are capable of changing the world.

  8. mkubie says:

    Personally, I believe that we haven’t really lost our way in education due to the fact that I believe we didn’t really “get” it to begin with. Education has always been and always will be in a state of change. A current problem that was pointed out in the book Why School? is that testing is becoming too much of a focus in education. The book says that “we have reduced our definition of human development and achievement- that miraculous growth of intelligence, sensibility, and the discovery of the world- to a test score.” I agree with this statement. Over the years I have noticed a growing trend of schools and teachers focusing on test scores more than actual learning and individual improvement. There are many ways students improve that are not necessarily shown in an increased test score. I believe that improvement of all kinds should be rewarded and that teachers should be more worried about student development than what their knowledge will translate to on a test. Testing can be a useful tool for instructors. But that is it. It’s a tool. Not the answer to a student’s education.

  9. I think we have lost our way in education. With varying views about what schools are supposed to teach, who should do the teaching, and the goals of education, it is no surprise that schooling in America is a controversial subject. Many experts, like Rose, are conquering the question of whether a college education is worth the monetary investment. Like Rose, I believe that schools offer more than basic literacy education. They offer a platform to explore interests and our roles in democracy. It is important that teachers and those training to be teachers, address these controversies.

    • JayJay says:

      There are so many varying views about what schools should teach and the goals of education. There is a lack of consistency, in terms of identifying what an education should offer. A good example of this would be what’s going on in the state of Texas regarding U.S. History classes. Some people believe that American history should be censored, while others believe that it should be taught explicitly. While that is a conflict that is going on in the state of Texas between the board of education and the state, students in other states may or may not be learning about things in U.S. history. However, there is an inconsistency with what is being taught and retained in American education. With this inconsistency in expectations, students are missing out on learning that can truly be beneficial in their lives.
      I agree with your statement that says you believe schools offer more than literacy education.

  10. Anna Austin says:

    In my personal opinion, we have without a doubt lost our way within in finding the true light and overall purpose within education. My thoughts are congruent to Rose’s feelings in which he states, “…we’ve reduced our definition of human development and achievement- that miraculous growth of intelligence, working, and the discovery of the world- to a test score” (Pg X). This shift from the “sensibility” ideal behind education to a system education by a variety of education tests and jumbled test scores, is of course catered to the new focus of standardized value. We no longer strive fro higher education in order to better our selves as individuals but to rather economic our won economic strengthen, thus hindering our growth as both standings and as a working society. “The kinds of opportunity we make standardized are profoundly available by what we think education is for..” (7).

  11. hansenar says:

    “We’ve narrowed the purpose of schooling to economic competitiveness, our kids becoming economic indicators. And we’ve reduced our definition of human development and achievement–that miraculous growth of intelligence, sensibility, and the discovery of the world–to a test score.”

    We have absolutely lost our way in education. Instead of instructors educating students to influence and learn about the world around them, our school system has made it to where students are being educated to pass a test that challenges their discipline and memorization. The ACT and SAT standardized tests are perfect examples. These tests challenge the pace of the brain and discipline of a student.
    As a future educator, I plan on teaching things in my classroom that will be beneficial in life as a whole, rather than for a limited time test. From personal experience, I can say that many students study in order to pass a test, rather than to take something away from the classroom and apply it in life..

  12. Shelby says:

    Rose says, “we’ve narrowed the purpose of schooling to economic competitiveness, our kids becoming economic indicators.” Through this quote, “…we have lost our way” in the sense that we focus on the money required for materials like laptops and the money needed to attend school instead of the learning process and to gain knowledge to better further our future.

  13. Jesse Welch says:

    In his preface, Rose explains how “though we pride ourselves as a nation of opportunity and second chance, our social policies can be terribly ungenerous” (x). Not only is this true, but from what else I have experienced on top of this reading, I would say it is an understatement. ‘Terribly ungenerous’ is not necessarily the term I would use to describe the fact that the Amercain Dream–the guiding principle that rose America from the ashes of it’s birth–is completely and utterly dead.

    In the introduction, Rose goes into far more detail and support on this idea of a lost american dream. The statement that not only stood out to me the most but also hit this point home the hardest is when Rose explains “In such an economic and social structure, ‘a good chance to advance oneself’ or ‘a favorable combination of circumstances’ is available to fewer and fewer people, particularly those at the bottom” (13). Both statistically and according to the culture of the day discussed in this novel, the rich get richer and the poor stay poor. Yet in a land of equal opportunity and freedom such as America, this is the truest it could be anywhere in the world. After all, even the President of the nation himself has spent far more years hurting those around him for personal monetary gain than doing anything to make any sort of opportunity greater for anyone across the country.

  14. I don’t agree with the idea that “we have lost our way” in education but I do think economic issues have been playing too large a roll in the way people view education as a whole. Especially when looking beyond high school and contemplating the expenses of college, the conversation usually circulates around careers and sound economic outcome as opposed to the experience of learning or engaging in human interests. Education focuses on intellect, achievement, creation, experience, and encompasses entirely more than socioeconomic status allows us to realize. Rose comments on how this issue needs to be brought to light, and somehow dealt with in the statement: “The challenge in the writing is how to bring the cognitive detail and intimacy into public view, how to render it, and how to apply it to broader social and political issues” (21). What is so important about education is that there is an element of intimacy that goes unappreciated or sometimes unknown. Teachers are able to see this more easily than our politicians and community members because they have made a life of stressing all the important parts of education. Rose discusses a man named Anthony and his passion and appreciation for learning despite his life experiences and economic background and says, “These few minutes remind me of how humbling work with human beings can be” (3). I am struck by readings, teachers, discussions, other students, materials, and how the educational atmosphere is a catalyst for individuals and what they like. I don’t think school is magic, but I hope that someday I am a good enough teacher to at least support my students in what they like or do, not what they’re told to like or do. We may need to refocus the public’s attention regarding education, but I do not believe we have not “lost our way” enough to reshape education.

  15. mallory latimer says:

    t seems as though we have lost a lot of the human aspect of education. We are so focused on the the new and the now and all of the technology that is being so rapidly produced, I think that sometimes teachers forget that they are in a classroom to teach children more than just facts. On average teachers spend more time with children than their orb parents do, leaving so much time to make an impression on young minds. Rose says, “These few minutes remind me of how humbling work with human beings can be,” Kids are more than just vessels to fill with facts all day, they are capable humans with so much more to learn, who have lessons of their own to teach. As American’s entering into the education program i think that it is so important for us to realize what a big role we potentially play in children’s lives, and how they will not just view us as people to fill them up with knowledge of english, but also people to turn to, to share their victories and triumphs with.

  16. I believe we have lost our way in education. I agree with Mallory that we have failed to nurture the human part of education, and the concept of addressing the young person in a holistic manor doesn’t seem very important anymore. I think we can all agree that standardized tests are not the answer, and they do little to reflect true learning, while penalizing schools who under-preform severely. School reform leaves behind drastic affects on students, long after the reform technique has been abandoned and found to be unsuccessful. These experiments in education are preformed on real students during integral parts of their development, and they are the ones who face the true effects of reform that just doesn’t work. Mike Rose states, “This concern about the nature of a school’s response to high-stakes pressure is especially pertinent to those students at the center of reform efforts: poor children, immigrants, and students from non-dominant ethnic groups.”

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