What If You Didn't Need More Students?

There are two types of educators in the world.

Those who believe in age-old proven educational principles.

And those who would favor Sir Ken Robinson's and Mr. Vander Ark's worldview - our education system requires a serious update.

This debate is increasingly polarized and has become a distraction that keeps us paralyzed.

The tension results from the fact that our current circumstances differ a lot. Different teacher ratios, district spending, ethnic ratios - these all mean different priorities.

So instead of asking "what is the purpose of education?" I ask you to consider the following:

You know that feeling you have after having a meal that's just right?

Not too little so that you're not hungry, but not too much that you're full.

Ever wonder what you would do as a school leader if you didn't need more funding, more enrollments, more classrooms or teachers?

You've got the exact amount of students you feel you can handle. You've got them covered with excellent facilities that fit them all. And you've recruited the best and brightest educators in your community. Life is good.

What do you do then?

I actually asked this question the other day at a school leadership gathering in Middleboro, MA.

Many educators voiced that this is where proper education begins. Give us the proper resources, and we'll do our work.

For these, education is about educating, pure and simple. These educators go on to paraphrase a range of definitions from Margaret Ammons, Arthur W. Foshay, John Dewey or the ASCD.

I even got a mention of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's focus on "meeting the State’s workforce needs".


There were insightful opinions in favor of preparation for life, work, and citizenship. All were balanced, well thought-out and persuasive arguments.

Some educators expressed a sense that we are part of a new ecosystem that is evolving through trial and error. Many opinions, many experiments, varying learning outcomes.

Back to our question: What If You Didn't Need More Students?

a. Would you focus on experimenting? Maintain the same amount of students while tweaking, improving and testing new learning teaching methods?

b. Or would you focus on growth? Systematize your existing curriculum and try to impact a wider share of your community by growing your student body?

This is a tough question to answer, but it could help you clarify where you truly stand on the Ed Reform spectrum.