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 Response Page - Jennings  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Wayne Jennings Interview of

The Questions:

Students have an innate desire to learn, Jennings argues, so we need to design schools that successfully channel that interest and motivation. More money will not solve the problem of poor performance in education; rather, changing school design to take advantage of well-established learning principles will achieve better results with less money. Chartering has not necessarily resulted in true innovation; most charter schools recreate conventional curriculum. Policy makers should encourage those inside the school system to break out of the confines of traditional subject matter and teaching methods, and understand that success can be demonstrated in ways not captured by conventional measurements.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Jennings.  Average response ratings are shown below.  Note:  these average ratings are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Re-design schools (8.0 average response)  Achieving quality in education depends less on additional funding and more on changing traditional schools.

2. Allow experimentation (7.4 average response)  Everyone at a school need not agree on any given change; let teachers be free to make changes on their own.

3. Facilitate learning (7.6 average response)  The concept of "teachers" should change--from that of imparters of information to students to "facilitators of learning" who coach students in retrieving information on their own.

4. Require options (6.0 average response)  Because students learn in many ways school districts should be required to offer at least three different approaches from which students can select.

Response Distribution:

Disagree Strongly

Disagree Moderately


Agree Moderately

Agree Strongly

Total Responses

1. Re-design schools







2. Allow experimentation







3. Facilitate learning







4. Require options







Individual Responses:

Ray Ayotte  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

Charles Lutz  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

W.D. (Bill) Hamm  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

1. Re-design schools.  While I agree with the first half of this statement, the second half is the same old "Socialist" mastery learning, (later OBE, then Standards Based Education, all the same…  socialism [nonsense] that goes all the way back to Chicago in the 1960's. Time to go back to a 2-year teaching degree, these elitist 4-year degree idiots are spending entirely too much time thinking of ways to get out of teaching our children what they need to know and too little time teaching. We are not running an experimental lab here. Under our old "Traditional education system" teaching experimentation was proven via internal competition within the system. Letting teachers do what they want without internal controls is stupid.

2. Allow experimentation.  Mr. Jennings does everything in his power to leave those of us who own the system out of his discussion. His position is [a] typical pro teacher union [position] speaking against return of control to the local citizen base as well as avoiding any accountability during all this free reign for teachers that he is promoting.

3. Facilitate learning.  The root word of teacher is "Teach" and the definition of teaching is the imparting of knowledge. By following Mr. Jennings’ lead we let the teacher off the hook by shifting the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student. We can already see the result of this elitist stupidity in our 30 to 50% dropout rates. On top of that if we only need "Facilitators" of learning, I don't see any need for more than a high school diploma to be a future teacher. Just more Teddy Sizer [nonsense].

4. Require options.  It has been clearly demonstrated that one learning style works very well for over 96% of our students, yet we continue to hear all this "Learning Style", "Teaching Style" [nonsense] that just detracts from real teaching again. Let us return to teaching that majority while providing for the needs of these few special needs children in an appropriate setting. The time has come to end these uncontrolled education experiments and return to a competitive education system that forces any change to prove itself before full implementation. It is clearly time to end this era of top down, elitist, Socialist, over educated, teacher union controlled education system as the absolute failure it is and return power and control to "we the people".

Bob White  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

Peter Hennessey  (2.5)  (10)  (0)  (0)

1. Re-design schools.  Agree on the comment on funding, totally disagree on changing, unless of course "traditional" means in the last 40 years, rather than everything before the last 40 years.    Time and again the numbers prove that expenditures have nothing to do with achievement. The Los Angeles school district spends $30,000 per student, yet has the worst schools in California. All too obviously, very little of those $30,000 actually makes it into the classroom. Way too much bureaucracy and compliance with irrelevant unnecessary and counterproductive federal and State regulations sucks up the money.    Our schools would be much better if we went back to traditional schools. Forget all the ideologically motivated "inventions" and "reforms" over the last 40 years. Go back to the days before that. We have been educating our children formally for 5,000 or more years; we have a pretty good idea what works and why. We don't need "new" ideas as much as we need to remember what has always worked.

2. Allow experimentation.  Every teacher is an individual and every student is an individual. Let them find their own ways to communicate to each other.

3. Facilitate learning.  Absolutely not. This proposal is a total abrogation of the teacher's responsibilities as a teacher. Teachers are more than librarians.

You not only have to provide information and tell where to find additional information, you also have to explain what it means and how to evaluate it. No child is born with knowing what to do with mere information.    

I am surprised that the presentation and the questions did not address the two biggest problem in school at all levels.    One is to keep the children's motivation high enough. You can't teach and they can't learn if they are not motivated and therefore not paying attention. That is why you also have to explain, for each topic, why it's important, what difference it makes; in other words, you have to put it in context and demonstrate its relevance. The journalist's checklist of Who What Where When How & Why is relevant in all subjects and all topics, not just the news, history or crime investigation.    The other is parental involvement and support. The child won't learn (much) if the parents see no value [in] formal education, do not provide an adequate learning environment at home, set a bad example, or are not even home; or, even if they are supportive, they have no skills in helping with homework or discussions about school work, current events, etc.

4. Require options.  There are more than three different approaches, and you do not choose just one or stay with just one. You teach using a variety of methods blended together on the fly, depending on the response from the children. Some children are visual learners, auditory learners, hands-on learners, etc.; some students learn better "by rote" and some by project, some have to be guided and some learn by discovery; and some subjects and topics are better taught and learned one way than another. But no subject or topic is taught and learned only one way.   

The brain is prewired to take in information using all five senses, and the chances of retaining information in memory increases with the use of all senses. That is why the student has to look, listen, read, take notes, do exercises, etc. That is why we always had lectures, took notes, read text books, did exercises and laboratory projects, held discussions, etc., because each method illuminates some things better than others and each method gives a better chance to learn than another, but no subject or topic can be successfully taught or learned using only one method.    While every sentient creature has some ability to figure out his environment and solve problems, children are notborn knowing how to learn efficiently, they are not born knowing how to teach themselves efficiently, and therefore the teacher also has to teach basic skills in observing, reading, listening, note taking, doing exercises, etc. because (1) children learn by many, many individually varying pathways using all five senses;  (2) a brain that is prewired to filter and integrate input from the five senses still needs help in developing good thinking habits, that is, reason and logic; and (3) children also  need to be taught how to handle distractions, screen out marginal or irrelevant information, and how to tell the difference from what is important.

Debby Frenzel  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (5)

Elaine Voss  (2.5)  (5)  (5)  (5)

1. Re-design schools.  I believe that inconsistent funding causes a lot of problems.  Promising school aids and then delaying the payments is problematic causing districts to borrow. The rhetoric of "teachers unions are the problem” or the use of standardized testing to track student achievement and then penalizing low performing schools is confrontational and not working.  The political atmosphere is very unhealthy. But this is the discussion we should be having.  Great choice.

2. Allow experimentation.  I don't know.  I would hope there would be broad guidelines that teachers could work under.  Every student is different in so many ways.  ‘Cookie cutter’ isn't the answer but ‘no thresholds’ isn't the answer either.

3. Facilitate learning.  Again, not all students come into schools with the same skills, same opportunities, or even the same health status.  I really believe in challenging students, not spoon feeding and then regurgitating on a "form" exam. Students having the ability to seek and find information are much better prepared for the "real" world".

4. Require options.  Why three?  Another mandate?  I support different approaches.  When I see what my grandchildren have for take-home work, I couldn't compare it in any way [to] how my children or I learned.

Pat Barnum  (10)  (5)  (10)  (7.5)

1. Re-design schools.  So, so true. Watch this engaging video from Sir Ken Robinson on this very subject:

2. Allow experimentation.  While teachers are vital to the ideas and implementation, districts need to become a system of schools not a collection of schools (as our super is fond of saying). That takes a shared vision and at least some coordination.

Vici Oshiro  (5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)

1. Re-design schools.  Both [funding and change].

2. Allow experimentation.  Within limits.

4. Require options.  "At least three" may prove too rigid in some circumstances.

Dennis L Johnson  (10)  (8)  (8)  (2)

1.  Re-design schools. Schools cannot be improved until teachers' unions are outlawed.  2.  Allow experimentation.  Eliminate the department of education (Federal). With all the money spent and regulations imposed, there has been no measurable improvement in education success.

Al Quie  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

It is difficult for teachers to overcome the results of absent fathers and depressed mothers. Not all teachers are innovators. Good principals and superintendents make a big difference but they face people and organizations that find change too threatening. It would be great if parents and teachers would be free to innovate and motivate for a while with ample information to stimulate ideas plus evaluation to determine the results. We know that there are some excellent public schools, charter schools, private schools and home schooling. Listen, think and love are three attributes that are essential. Forty years of general achievement decline proves that most people in control are stymied. 

Paul Bergley  (10)  (7)  (8)  (7)

Changes like these need to occur in our schools as long as it does not cost money because the public has spoken many times it does not want to spend more money.

Roger A. Wacek  (10)  (5)  (10)  (10)

Donald H. Anderson  (8)  (8)  (5)  (5)

Teachers should have flexibility in selecting subject material appropriate for the students they have and not have to run up against mandated rules like ‘No Child Left Behind’ and similar requirements.

Alan Miller  (5)  (6)  (8.5)  (5)

Bright Dornblaser  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

2. Allow experimentation.  If they meet learning objectives. 

4. Require options.  Example of needed change in the school architecture.

Robert J. Brown  (10)  (8)  (5)  (5)

David Alley  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Paul and Ruth Hauge  (8)  (7)  (7)  (5)

Bert Press  (5)  (5)  (5)  (0)

Tom Spitznagle  (10)  (9)  (8)  (9)

Austin Chapman  (10)  (6)  (8)  (5)

William Kuisle  (8)  (7)  (7)  (5)

Rick Bishop  (10)  (8)  (10)  (10)

I've had the privilege of working with Wayne and serving on the MAAP Board with him.  I have also been mentored by him in developing a charter school.  I am in total agreement with him and have preached the mantra of learning as opposed to "teaching".  In fact, I preface my vita with an anonymous quote:  "To teach is to learn twice".  Another fellow who makes clear learning is former NY teacher of the year John Taylor Gatto, whom I had the privilege of meeting at his retreat in upstate NY and whom I brought to MN as a keynote speaker at a MAAP State Convention.  Keep up the good work!

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (7)  (8)  (8)  (7)

Diane Flynn  (10)  (7)  (10)  (5)

I'm a bit nervous letting each teacher just "do their own thing", but on most other points, I wholeheartedly agree.  My concern about requiring schools to offer classes 3 different ways is related to costs.  Not sure every class has to do this, but clearly we need to cater to more learning styles. 

I have attended a number of educational speakers recently, many affiliated with Stanford, and they all say essentially what Jennings says [in his interview]. 

Nice work. 

Roy Thompson  (8)  (8)  (7)  (5)

Need additional information on what is meant by ‘different approaches’.

Carolyn Ring  (9)  (8)  (8)  (6)

Tom Swain  (9)  (6)  (8)  (5)

Scott and Nancy Halstead  (10)  (8)  (5)  (0)

Small school districts may not be able support 3 approaches.  Facilitators would work well with self-motivated students but not very well with others.

Ralph Brauer  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Bravo! This is the first interview I have read where someone has a grasp of the systemic nature of change and the true leverage points in the system.  It also shows how current efforts like Q Comp are [nonsense]. They don't get it. The racecar metaphor applies to all of government--employees are like those students wanting to do real work.  As Peter Senge says the problem is not the people, it's the system. The larger purpose behind a real charter school effort--R and D--is killing this country.  For the last two decades foreign companies and individuals have owned most patents. 

Fred Senn  (10)  ( )  (10)  (6)

This is part of a very important conversation picking up speed in America. It's about school reform. "Waiting for Superman" etc. This is a huge opportunity for Minnesota to lead. And a huge risk if we accept the status quo.



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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