What is strategic planning? Without question; it requires knowing the outcome(s) that are desired, and it requires discernment of the conditions (i.e. context) upon which implementation of our plans will occur. Now, I need not lecture practitioners about the procedures upon which the constructs mentioned above ought to unfold. I shall assume that there are many approaches to strategic thinking which have merit.
Strategic planning occurs at regular intervals. Goals are established, policies are adopted, and implementation follows; thus the cycle of planning is perpetuated. So, why do you think that a continuous stream of educational reform initiatives have not brought about the “changes” we desire? Given the reality of systemic constraints; perhaps our goals are unrealistic! Wow!
Are the conditions (i.e. contextual frameworks) under which students and teachers interact and the mandates placed upon an outdated model of schooling negating the change process? I believe so! It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over with the expectation of achieving different results. So, what can be done to break the cycle of perpetual dismay? I am not sure that anyone can answer that question with a definitive position statement; but, I shall convey my thoughts on the matter at hand. I ask, why do continuous rounds of strategic planning (i.e. school reform initiatives) fall short of expectations? I believe the problem is rooted in our (lack of) “vision” which perpetuates the establishment of capricious goals via policy experts. More money; Let’s try this! Wow!
That’s a bold statement, so let’s consider this matter “objectively”. The fact is that our earliest schools were establish to provide “basic skills” for life long employment within a narrow band of occupations. These bands included a variety agricultural, industrial, and unskilled contexts (e.g. gas station attendant). As such educational programs were fashioned upon an administrative framework setup to “manage” pools of industrial labor. Society changed very slowly over the decades prior to the second world war. However, by the mid-twentieth century, the focus of education shifted dramatically toward the widespread emphasis on developing (and expanding) access to secondary and postsecondary schooling. The later decades of the last century entailed the most social and technological changes in the history of our world. I shall not go into greater detail about the exponential rate of change which is occurring each year. For a more in-depth analysis regarding the evolution that occurred in society and schooling in the United States during the twentieth century; I suggest that you examine a manuscript written by the great scholar and educational historian Lawrence A. Cremin. His book entitled: Popular Education and Its Discontents (Harvard, 1989) offers readers a brilliant perspective regarding the evolution of schooling (and society) in America.
Let’s return to the matter being considered! Although much technological and social change has occurred in this world; the administration of schooling has changed very little since those early years. The enterprise remains a top down paradigm-and-there lies “our” problem! Our schools are failing for the simple reason that students are compelled to “memorize” a body of pre-determined facts. Continuing calls for standardization (i.e. testing) and professional specialization in an era where adaptation is the key to success; will ensure that schools fall short of our expectations.
For more information about establishing innovative and dynamic learning environments; you may sample/purchase my manuscripts which are published via Smashwords.com. http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/kennethfetterman