Each year Gallup conducts opinion polls on Honesty and Ethics in Professions. In recent polls from December 2011 to 2013,  major professions were ranked according to responses to the question: “Please tell how you would rate the honesty and ethical standards in these different fields—very high, high, average, low or very low?”

The charts shown here include a selection of professions that have (or should have) some say in education policy.  Chart 1 above shows the percentage of people who responded with a very high or high rating for each of the professions, and Chart 2 shows all three response categories.


Take note of the professions that have the top ratings of “high and very high” regarding honesty and ethics: school teachers, day care providers, and health care practitioners.

Also take note of the professions that are at the bottom of the same list: state and federal elected officials, business executives, labor union leaders, and lobbyists.

It is indeed unfortunate, if not tragic, that many of the professions the public trusts the least are the very ones that have the most say in developing our national education reform plan, replete with standardized high-stakes tests, common core learning standards, extensive reliance on computer technology, and pervasive student data mining.

This results-oriented reform approach treats schools as businesses, that collectively are becoming a massive multi-billion dollar market.  It is a consumer market with a steady and virtually guaranteed supply of money through local, state, and federal tax dollars; the perfect situation for for-profit corporations hungry for new and expanded markets.

To make things worse, we have to a large degree turned education reform over to people and institutions that have little or no direct experience with children in the classroom, and little professional motivation to be concerned with their overall mental and physical health. They have other priorities: getting re-elected, making profits, or expanding memberships, which may be legitimate priorities within their own fields.

Other Gallup polls reinforce this fact that we have given over the direction of education to the wrong professions and people. Seventy-nine percent of Americans believe that corruption “was widespread throughout the government in this country” and the same percentage are convinced that government was “run by a few big interests looking out for themselves (NY Times, Thomas Edsall, “The Value of Political Corruption,” Aug. 5, 2014).

Isn’t it common sense that education policy should originate with the people and professions with the most knowledge about education, that the public trusts the most, and who are subject to the least corruption by moneyed interest groups?

Furthermore, isn’t it plain common sense that we have health care professionals (highly trusted professions according to the Gallup polls) evaluate changes in our educational methods, such as employing computer-based “personalized” education programs, before they are implemented on a mass scale?

Promoters of the current reform efforts sometimes claim that that teachers and parents have provided significant input into reform measures such as the expansion of high stakes standardized tests and common core learning standards. However, this input is mainly occurring at the response level, not at the creation level, which includes determining the meaning, purpose, and goals of education.

All talk, debate, and protesting about education will not have any real effect in the long run until we find ways to renew education from within by experienced and trustworthy people in relevant professions. True renewal cannot come from without by people in professions that we trust the least and have little or no experience in education.

As a step in that direction, the Avalon Initiative intends to bring together people who are directly involved in the field of education in facilitated conversations to learn from each other, deliberate, and seek inspired ideas for education that meet first and foremost the real needs of children.



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