Rep. Takano's expertise as a classroom teacher, Suárez-Orozco's research on global education enhanced discussion.
Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, dean of UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS), was a panelist in a discussion titled, “From Blackboards to iPads: Examining Education in the 21st Century,” hosted by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs on Sept. 16 at the home of Harold and Stephanie Bronson, UCLA alumni and Luskin Dean’s Associates. Dr. Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., dean of the Luskin School, moderated the discussion between U.S. Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA, 41st District) and Suárez-Orozco, which focused on the intersection between education and public policy.
After welcoming remarks by the Bronsons, Dean Gilliam introduced Dr. Suárez-Orozco and Congressman Takano to the assembled guests. Suárez-Orozco underscored the heritage of UCLA, which was started from a teacher education school and then awarded its first bachelors degrees, in Education, in 1923.
“Institutions understand themselves looking backwards,” he said. “It is a special duty for us at GSE&IS to reaffirm the centrality of education in the 21st Century – in the 19th Century, education gave birth to UCLA.”
The discussion’s topics were based on timely issues surrounding education, including technology or the lack thereof for many American students, teachers’ unions, and recognizing the needs of a globalized society. Suárez-Orozco stated that the United States is one of a handful of high-income countries where all population and economic growth will be through the children of immigrants. He cited high-stakes testing as a shortsighted method to assess English learners, who often possess critical thinking skills but not the language to express them.
“We have to educate an ever more diverse cohort of Americans,” said Suárez-Orozco. “High-stakes testing for English learners is catastrophic. When do we start thinking about an agenda that is not throwing away half of our children?”
Suárez-Orozco pointed out the deficiencies of testing as an indicator of all students’ abilities, including higher order cognitive and metacognitive understanding, socioemotional development, self-awareness, or self-discipline. He also cited the role of high-stakes testing in the ongoing cheating epidemic that takes place throughout the nation’s most competitive academic institutions, including elite exam schools in NYC and elsewhere.
“We’ve gotten out of test-driven market reform as much as we’re going to get,” he said. “The hegemonic takeover of the test-driven regime is putting us in the back of the room, [away from] authentic learning and engagement.”
Suárez-Orozco delineated the “overwhelming” evidence of U.S. failure to keep up with the rest of the developed world in terms of educating its young. He said that Americans are less likely to have children in preschool than in any other high-income nation, and noted that the scourge of boredom in classrooms is doubly lethal in terms of young men of color who attempt to learn in environments of poverty and its related social effects.
“There is a binary effect,” he said. “You’re bored half the time; you’re scared half the time. One in five boys in our country today, has a learning difference. If you look at the issue of rising inequality, that’s what you need to factor in. We are falling behind. Children by the age of three are entering a regime… to a lifelong catching-up where winner takes all.”
Suárez-Orozco described the “three Ms” of markets, mass migration, and media as establishing the need to provide future generations with the skills to navigate an economy that is “unforgiving of those without higher order cognitive and metacognitive skills.” He also said that the unprecedented growth of immigrant populations is a condition that every high-income country in the world must address, and that Los Angeles is ten years ahead of the rest of the world in this growth.
“One hundred years ago, education was the mechanism by which poor immigrants became proud, loyal citizens of their new country,” said Suárez-Orozco. “The fundamental challenge of education in our country is globalization [and] the fundamental requirements of education have been completely transformed.”
To read a recent op-ed by Dean Suárez-Orozco on closing the education gap in U.S. News and World Report, click here.
Above: Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., dean of the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs (at far left), moderated a discussion between U.S. Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA, 41st District) and GSE&IS Dean Marcelo Suárez-Orozco (at right).
Photo by Todd Cheney