Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Public Education Needs a Billy Beane

This summer I was fortunate to watch Moneyball starring Brad Pitt. I highly recommend it. Without giving away too much of the plot, the movie is about a former MLB player turned general manager who is trying to fix his team, the Oakland A’s, because three star players left for bigger salaries that the A’s could not afford.

I expected this movie to be excellent. It was. What I did not expect was to make a personal connection with the main character. In the following clip, Brad Pitt does an excellent job of portraying Billy Beane and his frustration as Beane shares what he sees as the bigger picture, its relevance, and his belief that the club’s current, traditional approach will get them nowhere. Watch the clip and then I will make the connection…

**Warning – there is some offensive clubhouse language in this clip.**

The atmosphere in that clubhouse parallels two sides that currently exist in public education. The “Billy Beane” side wants to step out of the old mold and into a new. In education, he represents the side that wants to truly individualize education. He verbalizes the problem to his cohorts. Unfortunately, they hear him, but do not listen. His cohorts, who represent the traditional mindset in education, are perfectly content with addressing their problems using the same old methods. They accept the consequences of their archaic actions. It is perfectly acceptable for them to just find the next best player for their clubhouse, instead of developing a new method that could change their clubhouse.

As most of you know the “change” that is supposedly going to turn education around is the Common Core Standards. Unfortunately, bringing in the “next best player” is not going to do jack for our “ball club” unless we change the way we handle our classrooms. It is absolutely no secret (and I would argue a fact that everyone can agree on) that the more individualized a classroom is for a student, the better it is for the student. Unfortunately, in New York state, there is a push to use EngageNY State Modules. Instead of stepping away from the traditional classroom, the modules are solidifying the long-withstanding hold the traditional “one-size-fits-all” mindset has had on our classrooms since the inception of public education.

Albert Einstein once stated that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. At 1:32, Billy Beane shows his frustration to the insanity caused by his colleagues’ inability to see that routine actions will produce routine results. For educators who wear the same innovative shoes as he does, this clip shows the emotion and frustration that is spent when sitting at a table where others think they are moving forward, but really are just spinning their wheels. I am all for upping standards. The Common Core is another revision trying to do that.  The fact is that standards have been revised many, many times and our method of delivery has not. 

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