Warren Buffet said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” This statement has powerful implications because it clearly speaks against the “only today matters” philosophy making the rounds in education today. Today, the emphasis is on the twenty-first century, its technology, creating new “shiny” things that will turn everything around.
The Buffet quote makes the point clearly and powerfully that there can be no today without a yesterday. The shade being provided to the person in the quote wasn’t planted by the person in the quote- it was planted in the past- the past that today’s education reformers claim is outdated and lacking in its ability to educate students in the twenty -first century. Much like the tree providing shade, a tree that was planted before now, yet is providing shade now, education is not just about now- it is cumulative- it didn’t just arrive today! Like that tree, it was “planted” by someone in the past so people would be able to take advantage of it today.
In our careers as teachers, we did not start by “planting trees.” We enjoyed the “shade”, the knowledge, the wisdom, the “trees”, others had already planted in order to get our careers started, to have some idea of what to do and how to do it right. As time went by, we learned more, gained more wisdom, and “planted some trees “of our own, so those who came along after us might have some “shade” to enjoy.
As educators, it troubles us greatly that the past is being treated by the education reformers like some sort of nuclear wasteland in which everything old is radioactive waste with no value.
It troubles us that they see no importance in knowing what came before or why. We get it when students see the world this way, after all, they believe they are the creators of slang “new” dance moves, and “new” music when the truth is there has always been slang, dance moves and music. Those things have always existed- all they have done is add on to them. In fact, in some cases, some of their dance moves and slang are actually “recycled” (even though the young people do not know it!)
We get it when kids, with a limited understanding or perspective of the world discount or deny the past’s significance or existence, however it is simply unacceptable and the height of irresponsibility when people claiming to be the answers to “fixing” education, the people who are “preparing students for the 21st century” and providing them with a “world class” education, see the world exactly the same way.
That is why Betsy DeVos must not be confirmed.