Tutor/Mentor Connection

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The other night I came across a link to this article from the Opinion Page of the New York Times.  In the article, Dave Eggers compares the way policies address the educational system and the way in which we address the military, with the teachers being equated to the soldiers on the front line.  He writes that if a military operation is not going as efficiently as hoped, that the soldiers are never blamed, but the strategy, the coordinators, and the planners are blamed for it, however in the educational system, if a school is not performing as well as hoped, than the teachers are blamed for the failure, and not the system that they are involved in.  As a result, those teachers are almost disciplined by having their resources lessened and are still expected to out-perform their previous years' scores.  Comparing this to the army once again, that would mean that if an operation failed, than the soldiers would then be blamed and have some of their resources stripped away, and then get sent back into the exact same conflict using the exact same strategy and expected to overcome...


To me that doesn't make sense, and I applaud Dave Eggers for this comparison, but I challenge him to take it a step further.


If a military operation fails, then the strategy and coordinators are blamed, not the soldiers.  In other words, the larger system that the soldiers are involved in is modified to increase their performance.  In his article, Dave Eggers is calling for an adjustment to the salaries of teachers, as if handing the soldiers larger guns will increase their likelihood for success if their strategy is flawed.  I say that the system that the teachers are working within should be addressed, and that perhaps outside assistance should be considered for those teachers in the form outside of the classroom assistance such as tutor/mentor programs  If the soldiers on the front line are struggling in the face of opposition, it is very beneficial for them to call in outside assistance in the form of an air strike or satellite imagery, but in the conversation of addressing the struggles that our educational system is facing, why is the topic of tutor/mentor programs not being brought to the table as a viable form of assistance for teachers and schools who are victims of a larger system that is setting them up for failure?

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Comment by Daniel Bassill on May 12, 2011 at 4:55pm
I created this graphic a few years ago to compare a military campaign to our efforts to help tutor/mentor programs reach  youth in all poverty areas.  The same thinking is needed to win the war on poverty. However, we have too few leaders putting this into practice. I've seen General Powel in meeting in Chicago and I've visited the America's Promise web site which he helped found. I've never seen him use a map to brief the audience the way he used maps to show the progress of our troops during Desert Storm.
Comment by Daniel Bassill on May 3, 2011 at 2:51pm

The best generals are spatial thinkers. They use maps to help them plan a distribution of troops around the world so we have strength where the enemy has strength or weaknesses.  They think forward for many years to develop weapons and systems that will be needed in future years. They also think backward, to develop the supply lines that are needed to make sure each troop in the field is better supplied and trained than the enemy.


We don't have many generals in the war on poverty or in the effort to improve public schools and those who are involved seem to have left their military training behind when they tool the lead in their public service campaigns.


My hero is George C Marshall, the WWII Commander in Chief. See what I wrote about him on my Tutor/Mentor Blog.

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