Citing H.G. Wells' observation that "human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe," a Lawrence teacher said Monday that it's time to restructure the former to avoid running into the latter.
Tom Christie, who teaches fifth- and sixth-grade science at Deerfield School, spoke at Monday's Rotary Club meeting at the Lawrence Holidome. Christie, who recently received a $7,500 Presidential Award and a $25,000 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award, provided a teacher's perspective on education reform.
Christie called for vision, involvement and professionalism.
"We must first decide what we want students to be and what we want students to know when they leave our hallowed halls," Christie said. He said acting on that vision will require some new approaches to education.
"WHILE SOCIETY has changed, our educational structure has been entrenched in the policies of the past," Christie said.
He said that while the single-income, two-parent household used to represent the typical family, today fewer than 7 percent of U.S. families meet that description. Two-thirds of all mothers are in the work force, he said, and half of all marriages end in divorce.
Christie said that as teachers have tried to help students cope with broken homes and nonfunctioning communities, "their primary task of teaching has become radically undermined."
Another sign that education needs changing, Christie said, is that only 3 percent of high school graduates read at the level required for 90 percent of all jobs within the next 15 years.
Christie said active involvement in education on the part of teachers, businesses and others is needed for schools to work.
"TOO OFTEN schools close their doors to the outside world, and we can no longer afford to do that," Christie said.
He noted that Pizza Hut's "Book It" program, which encourages children to read using pizza as an incentive, has reached 17 million children in the United States. He said it's important to recognize not only what goes on in the classroom, but also "anything anyone does anywhere for education."
Christie also stressed the importance of professionalism in public schools.
"If society wants teachers to be professionals, then they must be treated as professionals," Christie said. He said that involves paying teachers as professionals and recognizing education as "a field that could benefit seriously from research and development."
Christie said a major accomplishment would be to keep students as enthusiastic about learning in secondary school as they are in elementary school. Unfortunately, Christie said, secondary school often seems less relevant to students' lives, "and that exuberance is often changed to apathy."
Christie said it's likely that education reform will never end.
"Education reform is a lot like success," he said. "It's not so much a destination, but more like a journey, a journey that we all must make."