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Eugene Paslov: Real reform for public education

Eugene Paslov
For the Nevada Appeal

Some folks talk about education reform as centralizing governance, ending tenure and collective bargaining, giving vouchers to anyone who wants them. Nonsense. These issues are ideological predispositions. They have little to do with real reform.

I attended a presentation by Dr. Milton Chen recently. Dr. Chen is a senior fellow and executive director emeritus of the George Lucas Educational Foundation and has produced a book, “Education Nation, Six Leading Edges of Innovation in our Schools” (a wonderful read). Dr. Chen’s visit to Carson City and his presentation to interested citizens, educators and policy makers, was sponsored by the Mae B. Adams Trust, through the Carson Nugget’s “Community First” initiative and the Carson City Library Foundation.

The meeting was well attended and on May 1 Teri Vance, Nevada Appeal’s education reporter did an excellent review of the proceedings. Notable was Ms. Vance’s lead quotation of Ben Contine’s (a Carson teacher) observation that education will not improve until “mothers want their daughters and sons to marry teachers.” Mr. Contine’s humor struck at the heart of much of the anti-teacher sentiment that must be overcome for the benefit of our children and the society they will inherit.

The power of Dr. Chen’s presentation was embedded in his book which he summarized with clarity, hope, and humor. Most educators in the room were very enthusiastic about Milton Chen’s ideas for reinventing, rethinking ways to improve our schools. Unfortunately, a few observed that they were already doing all that Dr. Chen was advocating (presumably “code” for doing nothing). But most of those present were intrigued and excited about ideas for making our schools better.

Dr. Chen spent the morning after his presentation personally signing his book to individual Carson City principals. Carson school board member, Ron Swirczek, then hand-delivered individual, signed copies to every principal in Carson City. Thinking about the kinds of improvements that are possible and getting those ideas into the hands of principals are critical steps to making a difference in the education of our children.

Susan Patrick, CEO and President of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, noted in her praise for the book: “Milton Chen is a visionary and global leader in education. Emphasizing creativity, technology-enabled learning, project based intellectual adventures and social/ emotional intelligences, Education Nation encompasses the well-being of the whole child and the major shift to student centered learning…”

We can reinvent our schools and make them more student centered and technologically relevant. Milton Chen has given us new ideas to think about teaching and learning. We need only have the courage to act and to make reform a reality, not talking points.

• Eugene Paslov is a board member of the Davidson Academy at the University of Nevada, Reno, and the former Nevada state superintendent of schools.