Five Reasons Our Education System is Part of the Class War

A friend who used to sit on the State Board of Education in Ohio shared an article on a few years ago as was published on Public Education Partners (

Before providing a link to it, a word of advice.  It would be easy to categorize this article in light of the controversies which have been the focus of broadcast media coverage and social media conversation.  However, this article extends beyond matters of race and religion.  Keep in mind that the word “Class” has three definitions.

Five Reasons Our Education System is Part of the Class War

Definition 1: Short for “Classification” – That’s the definition that gets us in trouble, since we have an innate desire to classify things.  We have become, as some have posited, a society that does not focus on who we are, nor what we can become, but who we are “not.” (More about that next week, how it relates to education, and why it’s an easier differentiator, and therefore, marketing strategy.)

Because of the pervasiveness of classification, it’s very easy to divide items that are similar, but difficult to relate items that are different.  For instance, it’s very easy to take a group of people and separate them according to their appearance, then further divide them by their religious belief system, or vice versa.

It’s because we’re prone to define ourselves as not what we are, but what we are not.  Why?  Because it gives whomever is doing the dividing power.  Divide…and conquer.

Conversely, it’s difficult to unite.  Seeking the similarities between two things that appear to be as different as possible is called, in some fields of study, creativity.  Today, we label creativity as “innovation” when what has been found really might not be innovative – but it is creative.

In fact, creativity leads to innovation, since creativity allows us to be creators.  That, too, gives power.

Definition 2: Groupings of students in a school system – The play on words here is an appropriate one, especially for education, since teachers and students talk about the “classes” they’re taking, and sometimes, the stress that occurs when the expectations are high for all of the “classes” a student is taking or a teacher has been assigned to teach.

There is a difference between the 4th grade teacher with a classroom of 26 students who might have 4 or 5 IEPs to review, but needs to write relevant lesson plans for each of the classes she’s teaching this year, and the elementary school librarian who splits time between 2 elementary schools in the district and is required to include educational curriculum based on state standards, elevating library as a “time” to library as a “class.”

Because of this, this educator will interface not with 26 students for the year, but with over 1,000, and since the classwork required graded evaluation, that means dealing with hundreds of parents.  Even the school principal has to deal with only half that amount.

Definition 3: How one acts.  This is the definition that is the most difficult.  There used to be a certain je ne sais quoi about a person who was “a class act,” or who demonstrated “class” when dealing with a difficult situation.

It used to be something to aspire to because people spoke highly of those who acted in this manner, and, usually, felt non-deserving of it.

As an example, take the great Roberto Clemente, the outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates who was killed in a plane crash while on a mission trip to help the people of his native Dominican Republic.  Now, that quality has all but disappeared in our society, since to be recognized, all one needs to do to gain recognition is to do something stupid, post it, and hope it goes viral.

And if we need the anti-example today, just think about the rantings one who held the top leadership post in our nation.

The need to be recognized is the most powerful need there is.  It demonstrates connection and acceptance (  It’s the first step in every 12-step program as well as every consultative approach to process improvement.

The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist. – Zig Ziglar

Perhaps the “Class War,” as any war, will end when we start to see what unites us rather than what divides us, and act with a little more class.

Stay classy, San Diego! – Ron Burgundy