March 25, 2005

The Blueberry Story -- My Take So, what's the problem with the Blueberry Story? Why is the experienced, perceptive English teacher's point that schools cannot reject "defective" students inappropriate? This is important. It goes to a fundamental misunderstanding of schools that, unfortunately, educators too often accept. Schools do not manufacture a product; they provide a service. Teachers are not production line employees; they are professional consultants. Therefore, schools must be run like professional consulting organizations, not factories. Students are not blueberries. The "blueberries" for schools are textbooks, whiteboards, overhead projectors, rooms, desks, computers, libraries, multimedia centers, school buildings, etc. Just as exercise equipment, courts, sound systems, televisions, showers, whirl pools, saunas, etc. are the "blueberries" for a health club. Nutritionists and personal trainers are not "blueberries" and, most definitely, neither are the patrons. For law firms, it's libraries, computers, internet service providers, online legal research, offices, fax machines, etc. Lawyers, paralegals, and secretaries are not blueberries, and neither are clients. I believe two things cause many folks to get this analogy wrong. First, they have difficulty equating students with the clients of other professional consultants because of the hidden role of choice for students. Students (and parents) don't have an option about going to school, and most have no option about what school they attend. This is different from health club patrons or legal clients, and it obscures the choices involved. Students do, however, have at least one significant choice: to engage, or not. And that choice is huge. Learning requires engagement. In fact, it often...

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