Byron's Babbles

Turmoil In Education: No One Right Way To Learn

Posted in Education, Education Reform, Educational Leadership, Global Education, science education by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 17, 2015


Korean War Veteran Jerry McCandless Teaching Students From Michigan

“I sure wish you could be my social studies teacher! You make what’s in our books real and exciting. I now care about the wars I have to learn about.” ~ Unnamed student to Korean War Veteran, Jerry McCandless at the Marine Corps (Iwo Jima) War Memorial 

Yesterday I had one of the most incredible experiences of my life. On Armed Services Day (May 16) I had the opportunity to serve our Veterans as a Guardian for our Honor Flight sponsored by The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels. Once I get sorted through all of my emotions from that experience I will write a post, but for today I am going to use the Veterans as the heroes of a post on education reform. The quote above was actually said by one of the students in the picture. The Veteran, my new friend and hero, Jerry (in the picture), did an incredible job of bringing history alive for these students from Michigan. I have to say he brought it alive for me, too! As a believer and researcher of real world context in education this really drove home the fact that students need to be able to make the connection of what they are learning to their real world context. In fact, it has really got my wheels turning as to how we might, more intentionally, on our Honor Flights connect students with our Veterans. What an untapped wealth of wisdom and knowledge for the students we serve.

Veterans Jerry McCandless & Richard Schmidt Bringing History Alive For A Student

It was so ironic that this week’s lesson in Marciariello’s (2014) A Year With Peter Drucker was on education. Also, it is ironic that as I type this this post I am sitting in the airport waiting to board a plane for New Orleans for the American Federation for Children’s National Education Policy Summit where I am speaking on a panel on school choice and education reform. Drucker called for a systematic innovation in our schools (Maciariello, 2014). Drucker believed the heart of remediation was a “focus on strength.” He also believed we must stop “treating by patching.”

“Perhaps the time has come for an entrepreneur to start schools based on what we know about learning, rather than the old wives tales about it that have been handed down through the the ages.” ~ Peter Drucker

In September 2012 the Intelligence Unit of The Economist had the United States ranked 17th out 39 countries plus Hong Kong, who was ranked third in Education Attainment, in Cognitive Skills (reading , math, and science) and Education Attainment (literacy and graduation). Bottom line: we have some work to do. “Literacy” traditionally means subject knowledge. In a knowledge society, however, people have to learn how to learn (Maciariello, 2014). The knowledge society also requires lifelong learning. For this we need a discipline of learning. We must also remember that reading is the basic skill needed for lifelong learning.

  Make sure we are aware that learning, to be most effective, should be individualized – otherwise it can be torture! 
We must start with the question, “How does each of our students learn most effectively?” Then, and only then, can an individualized plan for lifelong learning be developed. The goal of teaching should be to find the student’s strengths and then focus them on achievement. Students have different patterns of learning – teachers must unlock these patterns. We need to lead our students to great achievement. We need to create a real world connection, excitement, and motivation just as our Veterans did for students yesterday in Washington D.C. This relevancy of context will go a long way in creating intrinsic motivation for the rigorous, disciplined, persistent work, and practice that learning requires. Education is a mentoring process.

Most schools and colleges are organized on the assumption that there is only one right way to learn. If we are going to be successful in truly reforming education we must differentiate the choices students have for schools. I believe in school choice, but we must actually have choices for our families, and then help them make those choices. If all schools are using exactly the same cookie cutter approach, is it really school choice? Another question to ponder in closing, “How do we create more opportunities for our students to glean from the incredible wisdom of our Veterans like Jerry McCandless and Richard Schmidt?


Maciariello, J. A. (2014). A year with Peter Drucker: 52 weeks of coaching for leadership effectiveness. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.


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