Educational Gatekeepers: Pros And Cons
Various industries have come to depend on gatekeepers to keep a consistent benchmark for quality. Whether you’re talking about food service, manufacturing, publishing, or education, these professionals take many forms but share the same goal: distinguish the good from the bad. Currently, in the world of education, the gatekeepers seem a little confused. While on one hand, the federal government is trying to impose its Common Core standards on state educators, certain jurisdictions are looking at flying solo.
Indiana, for example, is hung up on the question of how much testing is too much. Where do you find the balance? It’s an answer that no one seems to have, though they continue to try. Naturally, this leads to a discussion about the importance of gatekeepers and whether they’re ultimately a positive or a negative for education. To come close to finding an answer, you’ve got to look at the Pros and the Cons.
On The Pro Side…
The very concept of a gatekeeper is unquestionably a good thing. After all, you shouldn’t trust everything that you hear without a little scrutiny. The question we’re going to explore in a little more depth, however, is this — what constitutes a quality gatekeeper? Let’s try to understand it by looking at the pros.
Gatekeepers understand the old ways.
There are tips and tricks for reaching kids and understanding what information they need to be proficient at a subject. You wouldn’t turn over gatekeeping duties in English to someone who can’t write in complete sentences, same as you wouldn’t expect an English savant to teach you chemistry. We need organizations that can look at the fundamentals of a subject and know what educational materials meet the appropriate standards.
Gatekeepers offer specialization and intelligence.
But some of the best innovators broke rules to get where they are today, someone might say. True, but in order to break the rules, you have to have a thorough understanding of the system as a whole. You must know the rules you’re breaking, in other words, to be able to break them effectively.
Gatekeepers are passionate about quality.
One of the main reasons that teachers get involved with their profession to begin with is that they love their subject matter. They’re passionate and want to be around it, and they get special joy out of passing that on to others. Teachers are some of the most common gatekeepers that education has to offer, and we certainly need them in order to be effective. However, even the most passionate people can be their own worst enemies. Let’s explain that a little further in the next section.
The Con Side
You’ve heard it said that there can be “too much of a good thing” and that really becomes the case with Old Guard Gatekeepers when you look at the Con side. Just how can any of the above qualities be bad? For starters:
Gatekeepers can get tunnel vision.
These individuals can become so obsessed with their areas of expertise that they fail to see better ways of doing things. Cursive writing is a good example of this. Yes, it’s a beautiful form of handwriting and for many years, it was an absolute necessity for teaching. You just couldn’t let a child get out of the third grade without them knowing how to make the alphabet look fancy. But unfortunately for cursive lovers, technology outpaced its necessity, and now it’s a non-factor in actual learning. Elementary school teachers woke up one day and realized they were wasting a lot of time on a skill that their students would truly never need in life.
Gatekeepers may resist Change.
The RIAA is a great example of where resistance to change can take you. The organization used to be an absolute necessity for anyone who wanted a career playing and selling music in front of an audience. However, around the turn of the 21st Century, digital downloads became popular. Rather than embrace change and find its place in it, the RIAA tried — and continues to sputter on fumes trying — to fight and smother progressive technology. To this day, they’re looked at as a one-dimensional movie bad guy in the music industry. New and emerging artists have found they can make more money and have a closer connection to their audience by not using them at all. In education, you see some of this same behavior from schools and government entities. They don’t take the change of MOOCs and online education as seriously as they should. They don’t respect the role of the service-based professional, who can actually go out there and make a living building successful websites and marketing themselves. They see professional writers as ill-equipped to teach students because they haven’t gone through the ridiculous education hours and the insanely expensive testing. In the online world, doers can be great teachers, but higher ed hasn’t quite caught on in any significant way.
Gatekeepers may be ill-equipped to adapt.
Many people learn under the old ways and get too comfortable in their careers, despite every indication that the economy of tomorrow is a dynamic one where you will always need to be learning in order to stay ahead of the pack. Once that comfort and complacency goes on too long, it becomes hard to make up ground. That’s when you wake up one day and sites like Kaplan are hoarding in on the importance of the classroom. Adaptation is a must if you want to survive, and too many existing gatekeepers just don’t know how to do it.
Gatekeepers are a must in the world of education. Most would agree with that statement. However, where we tend to differ is in deciding who’s best equipped for the role. Good gatekeepers continue to learn and adapt. They know the old ways and respect them, but they also understand change and how very important it is. In more specific terms, we feel the gatekeepers of tomorrow are already emerging today. There will be more apps and websites with serious weight behind them. They will find ways to educate our nation more practically and cheaply. And while that’s a great thing for our future, we wouldn’t want to be part of the Old Guard.
[Image via CLAAD.org]