Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream:
The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America
The crisis in public education has ominous implications for the future of our way of life and is at the root of almost all our nation’s problems. Equally ominous is that the forces on both sides of the battle for the future of public education are tragically wrong.
The reform initiatives of “No Child Left Behind,” “Race to the Top,” privatization, blaming teachers and their unions, high-stakes testing, charter schools, and vouchers are all recipes for disaster.
Equally disastrous is preserving the traditions of public education and excusing schools and teachers because of the challenges of poverty and segregation. Although we consider public school teachers to be unsung American heroes, we need them to step forward and demand that their leaders and communities give them what they need to end the failure of so many children.
It is the focus on failure of both sides of the debate that is distracting us from the simple truths about the problems in our public schools; truths that keeps us from a practical solution that will transform public education in America and end the failure of millions of disadvantaged children. That a disproportionate percentage of these children are black and other minorities makes this the civil rights issue of our time.
Instead of “Why do kids fail?” the question we should be asking is “Why do some students excel in school despite the incredible disadvantages they face and what characteristics do they share?
What we discover, is that whether they are black, white, rich, poor, live in thriving or deteriorating neighborhoods, or come from intact or fractured families is that almost every “high-performing student has, 1) a parent who holds out high hopes and expectations for him or her and who believes that a quality education is a ticket to the American dream and 2) parents who consider themselves to be full partners with their child’s teachers and principals, accepting responsibility for the education of their sons and daughters. Each of these parents works hard to instill a powerful motivation to learn in the minds and hearts of their children.
The other things these high-performing students share is that they have close, nurturing relationships with their teachers—the kind that many of us recall when we think back on our favorite teachers—and they have learned that success is a process of learning from our mistakes and building on one success after another.
We must forget all the excuses and distractions of poverty and focus our complete attention on two objectives, 1) reinventing the education process to do a better job of meeting the unique needs of each student, and 2) working to engage an ever-increasing number of parents as partners in the education process. The objective must be that every child learns as much as they can, as fast as they are able. Nothing else matters.
Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America, is focused on putting teachers in a position in which the education process gives them all the support they need to teach and putting students in a position in which they can be successful. The book offers 19 specific recommendations to fix the education process, and 14 specific recommendations to repackage the American dream and to engage both parents and their communities as partners in the education of our nation’s children.
What we will discover is that all children can learn and that, in each of our communities and school districts, we have the power to act on these recommendations. We do not require anyone’s permission, nor do we need an act of Congress or state legislatures. All we need, now, is you!
Since the book was published, the author has continued working to refine the education model. The education model is available at the author’s website along with a white paper entitled, “Breaking Down the Cycles of Failure and Poverty: Making Public Education Work for all Students Irrespective of Relative Affluence or the Color of their Skin.” This white paper was written to lay the logical foundation for the model and to provide an overview of the findings and conclusions from the book. Both Model and white paper can be found at http://www.melhawkinsandassociates.com/education-model-white-paper/
A former Juvenile Probation Officer, Mel Hawkins has also served as Court Executive of a unified trial court, Administrator of a multi-specialty group medical practice, Chief Operating Officer of a distribution and inventory management firm, as a Leadership and Organizational Development Consultant, and a small business owner. This experience has given Mr. Hawkins a unique perspective, one that has served him well as an innovator and problem-solver.
Educated at Manchester College where he received a BA degree, the author has also earned a Master of Science in Education (Psychology) from the University of Saint Francis and a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University.
Reinventing Education, Hope and the American Dream: The Challenge For Twenty-First Century America,(2013), was inspired by Mel’s ten years’ experience as a substitute teacher for Fort Wayne Community Schools, beginning in 2002, after he opted to phase out his consulting business to pursue his life-long dream of writing books. The work was also influenced by Mel’s experience as a juvenile probation officer during the first nine years of his career and by over twenty years in organizational management and consulting where Mel’s responsibilities included leadership development, training, organizational management, strategic planning, problem-solving, and performance management. Also, of influence has been Mel’s more recent experience as a part-time Test Administrator, for the Department of Defense. Mel administers the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) that is utilized as the entrance exam for prospective enlistees in the Armed Services of the United States.
Against this background, Mel’s ten years of experience as a substitute teacher proved to be a wonderful opportunity to walk in the shoes of public-school teachers. There, Mel witnessed, first hand, the challenges with which both teachers and their students must deal. Much as he did as an organizational leader and consultant, Mel began to examine the education process with the belief that their must be a better way.
Active in his community throughout much of his career, Mel attended Leadership Fort Wayne; has served as president and member of the Board of Managers of Byron Health Center, a 500-bed long term care facility; was a co-founding board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Wayne; co-founder, board member, and former president of the South Side Business Group of Fort Wayne and Allen County. Mel has also served on the board of the Martin Luther King Montessori School, the Alumni Board of Leadership Fort Wayne, and as co-chair of the legislative committee of the Indiana Correctional Association. Hawkins is also a veteran of the US Army during the Vietnam era.
Since publication of Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream, Mel has been working hard to promote the book and in search of a superintendent of a public-school district willing to test his model in one of the districts underperforming elementary schools. The reader is also invited to follow Mel on Twitter (@melhawk46) and to check out his Blog, Education, Hope, and the American Dream, with over 200 articles and counting.
In addition to Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream, (2013), Hawkins has published three other books: Radical Surgery: Reconstructing the American Health Care System (2002) ,offering a way to provide universal healthcare without socialized medicine; The Difference is You: Power Through Positive Leadership, (2013), written to show how anyone can become a powerful positive leader and begin making a difference in the world around them; and, Light and Transient Causes, (2014) a novel about how things could go horribly wrong if the American People were to lose faith in democracy and elect an authoritarian outsider as President of the United States on the basis of his promise to restore peace and prosperity at any cost.