There is always a lot of talk about school reform. It is a very important topic but at times I think we look at it using a very wide angle lens and we tend to see all the problems. When looking at it through that type of lens type of lens it can seem overwhelming and perhaps our reaction is why bother trying. We are not going to change the system and what can I do?
My faith and religion is something that is very important to me and as many of you know offers me a source of inspiration. When the issue of education reform came up I found inspiration in something that I read this week by Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
He tells the story about David who is a pediatrician and David had a favorite story. The story is actually taken from Loren Eiseley, a famous anthropologist.
The story is as follows:
"An old man was walking along the beach when he saw a young man throwing starfish that got stranded by the tide back into the sea one by one. He went up to him and asked why he was doing this. The young man answered that otherwise the starfish would die. The old man said, but the beach goes on for miles and there are thousands of them, you will not be able to save them all. How can your effort make a difference? The young man looked at the starfish in is hand and threw it to safety in the waves.To this one he said it makes a difference."( Loren Eiseley, The Star Thrower, New York: Times Books 1978)
Rabbi Sacks adds; "We do it one day at a time, one person at a time, one act at a time. A single life, said the sages, is like a universe. Save a life and you save a world. Change a life you begin to change the world."
Therefore I think we need to take a narrow lens when looking at school reform. Perhaps we can't the change everything and perhaps the system is just too big but if we can change one child or one class then we begin to change the world.
Therefore as it says in the Ethics of our fathers: It is not our responsibility to to finish the work ( it is too great) but you are not able to exempt your self from doing anything.
Let us focus on what we can do within our classrooms and our schools and with that change we can begin to change the world.