Forbes List of Edu-creators, not Educators

Fobes recently published a feature article/photo spread, 30 Educators under 30:The Millennials Overhauling Education And Lea... by Meghan Casserly, 12/7/2012. The lead in for the article read:

The 30 Gen-Yers on our list are innovators, advocates, thought-leaders and reformers. Through outreach initiatives and engineering they’re committed, like my mom, to giving kids everywhere the best chance at success. They’re committed to making the lives of teachers like her just a little bit easier, whether through technology that saves them precious minutes communicating with parents or helps them use data analytics to track performance more efficiently than traditional paper grade books ever could.

A series of slick, glossy photos of well-dressed, smiling bright-eyed entrepreneurs and CEOs followed. Readers were advised to, “Click through the gallery for the 30 men and women who are disrupting education from top to bottom.” Disrupting? Is that what needs to happen to education? To disrupt? To disrupt means:

1. To throw into confusion or disorder;
2. To interrupt or impede the progress, movement, or procedure of;
3. To break or burst; rupture.

Disrupting is a perplexing choice if the purpose of the article is to praise the contributions these individuals are making to the business of education. When students disrupt a class, they are given detentions. The choice of the verb is contradictory because in the next sentence readers are encouraged “to visit their websites and reach out to congratulate them, to give them well-deserved credit for their hard work.” Are we being asked to congratulate disruption?

I did visit some of the websites mentioned in the photospread, and I do want to express my thanks to the CEOs who provide free and well-designed software programs. Specifically, I noted the photos of  Nic Borg, 26, Cofounder and CEO, Edmodo; Sam Chaudhary, 26, and Liam Don, 26, Co-founders of ClassDojo; and Andrew Sutherland, 23, Founder, Quizlet.  I will agree that these products contribute positively to my classroom environment. None of their products are “disruptive”.

The photos of these four product founders and their 26 smiling cohorts confirmed that all were vibrantly under 30, so I concede the “30 under 30″ part of the headline. And yes, all 30 individuals are associated with the business of education, but they are not educators. These 30 individuals are educreators. The difference? Educators are in classrooms….Educreators are not.

Educators are in the classroom designing lessons, developing assessments, grading papers, contacting parents, posting bulletin boards, collecting data, analyzing data, meeting with teachers, collaborating with special education teachers, organizing supplies, selecting resources, and adjusting plans every minute of ever school day, and in most cases, for hours before or after school. In short, educators teach.

All Edu-creators have been in classrooms…as students. One edu-creator featured in the article spent three years in a classroom for Teach for America, one year more than the required two years of service. Each of the edu-creators has a product to improve education, but that does not make them educators. They are not in the classroom teaching; many are marketing a product for the classroom.

There has been an explosion of educreations that parallels the expansion of technology in the classroom. Many of these educreations from educreators are offered free or in “lite” versions. Ultimately, these products will make money for their founders and CEOs; there will be subscriptions or advertisements that generate revenue for these ’30 under 30″, and that is how capitalism works. A good product will sell, and many of these are good products. However, these products are tools for educators to use, not replacements for educators themselves.

Other members of the “30 under 30″ are contributing to education policy by serving on boards, writing books, or being advocates for non-profits. These roles are also important, but again, these educreators have little practical experience to anticipate the problems that even the smallest changes in policy can have in the classroom. For example, a change in a state endorsed teacher evaluation system can result in thousands of hours for training evaluators and teachers  to meet new requirements, and those new requirements will be modified numerous times until an evaluation system proves effective. The effect of policy on the individual teacher or classroom is rarely witnessed; instead, policymakers are focused on the collection of “data”, not the hundreds of personal stories policy creates.

Comments under the article decry the lack of teachers. As Becky D succinctly  states:

I think it an egregious oversight that this list doesn’t include a single practicing educator.

Meghan Casserly’s response?

Educators obviously impact hundreds if not thousands of students over the course of their careers–and I looked for ways to weigh that against some of the other people on this list. Particularly for teachers under 30, it was extremely difficult to compare them in any apples-to-apples way. That said, there were some amazing teachers nominated who I was sure fit the bill—only to find out they were already 30!

So, are we to take from this comment that there are no real educators under 30 who are overhauling education and leaving no child behind? Perhaps there are no “amazing teachers” under 30 immediately visible to Casserly because they are so busy designing lessons, developing assessments, grading papers, contacting parents, posting bulletin boards, collecting data, analyzing data, meeting with teachers, collaborating with special education teachers, organizing supplies, selecting resources, and adjusting plans every minute of every school day that they simply do not have the time to create new educational software programs, run advocacy groups, or write educational policy. They are teachers, and they are real educators. They will not be featured in a Forbes magazine article about overhauling education because they are engaged in the time-consuming and productive activity of building skills and improving understanding for students of all ages.

What did Casserly get right with this article? She suggests that if the reader does get to meet one of the featured “30 under 30″, that the reader should ask, “…what teacher they have to thank for helping them land on our pages.” I agree;  their educators would be proud of the success of their former students, their own educreations.

Views: 82

Comment by Steve Hargadon on December 20, 2012 at 9:23am

Great post, Colette.

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