The Governor came to talk about healthcare, but the most interesting thing he said had nothing to do with it

A couple of weeks ago, Governor John Kasich joined us at the City Club. It was great to have someone of his stature and station join us, as you can imagine, and we were thrilled that he had come to talk about healthcare reform. But even though he has been outspoken about healthcare, about his own efforts to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, about his own critiques of the House-passed American Health Care Act, the most interesting thing he had to say had nothing to do with healthcare.

It was about education, and I think a lot of people may have missed it.

As our traditional Q & A began, City Club regular and member of the State Board of Education, Meryl Johnson posed the first question. She pivoted from healthcare to “the health of our public schools.” (watch at the 37:00 mark in the video below)

The Fordham Institute recently found that students in the voucher schools are doing considerably worse and that’s a quote from the report, we find that our charters even  though there are some wonderful charter schools, two-thirds of them are failing but at the same time the Republicans are still pushing school choice and so my concern is that we have 92% of children in our state that go to public schools and need the best public schools possible, so my question to you Governor Kasich is when are you going to apply that same wonderful compassion that you have for Medicaid, when are you going to apply that to the state of our public schools?

It was a classic City Club moment—the well-informed, pointed, challenging question, and even though it was off-topic, everyone understood that when the governor is on the stage, you can pretty much ask him anything related to the office. He was game for it, and, as many politicians do, he didn’t answer the question as it was asked. Instead, he answered the question he thought was more important. After speaking about the value of choice, as he sees it, he turned to his point:


Within a relatively short time, the number one occupation in this country, driving—we won’t need drivers. We will have autonomous vehicles and all those people you see driving around in trucks, will not be driving in trucks, what’s going to happen to them?

Think about what’s happening with drones, think of the impact that is on so many facets of our lives. Even think about the grocery store business, you know Watson, artificial intelligence, you know who Watson is? Do you know what that’s going to mean for stockbrokers, and insurance risk adjusters and all these folks. We are going to see a tsunami of confusion and significant impact if we don’t prepare for the dramatically changing digital economy.

We went from agriculture to manufacturing, manufacturing now over to the digital economy and let me ask you this question, are we in the public schools today both in k-12 and higher education, preparing our kids for the future? For having eight or nine different occupations over the course of their lifetime? Are we preparing them in a way where they have real work experience, where we have flexibility? …

We’re not going to make it. Now I’m going to be out of office in a year and a half, this is my Paul Revere warning. We got to stop squabbling about this stuff and start thinking about new ways to get kids out there, get the skills, get them inspired and the old way is not working anymore by and large, so we have bigger issues to fry than whether we got school choice or  we don’t’ have it, or charters or vouchers or whatever.

I suppose this isn’t such a revelatory thing, but there was something about what he said, how he said it, and that it was the governor himself saying it that made this former high school teacher take notice.

There’s this old saw about education and Rip Van Winkle, that if he were to wake up today, the only thing he’d recognize is the K-12 classroom. A lot of us who have worked or currently work in education like to think of ourselves and our classroom practices as innovative, but whether you’re in an urban or rural setting, public or private, charter or whatever, chances are what’s happening in your classroom is more similar to how education has long been than we’d care to admit.

We do a lot of forums on education reform here at the City Club. We’ve talked about reforms in Newark, New Jersey, where Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan dumped a fortune into the schools and almost nothing changed. We talked with David Kirp about a school district that is beating their own demographic destiny. We’ve heard from researchers on charters and voucher programs, from advocates on every side, and tomorrow, we’ll hear from the leader of Teach For America, one of the most innovative programs to disrupt teacher training since the normal school. None of these addresses what the governor is talking about.

So here’s what’s been bugging me ever since the governor didn’t answer Ms. Johnson’s question: Who is truly re-inventing education? And when can we get them to come to Cleveland and share their vision? Or are they already in Cleveland and we just don’t know them?

Send me your thoughts on this, or tweet them to me, or drop us a message on Facebook, and we’ll look into them, we’ll share them with our education committee, and we’ll follow up when we can.

Thanks. See you at the next forum.

Comments (3)

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  • Philip Williams

    This is a topic I have thought about for a long time. I guess my first thought is that the K-12 model is a relic of our agrarian society. It expects level mastery on a variety of subjects and skills for every child. This mastery should be achieved in 8-3 PM, Monday - Friday schedule from Labor Day to Memorial Day. As new technology arises and more curriculum becomes necessary, we cram the new required mastery elements into the same structure. We don't really think about the consequences of adding new elements and how they will effect learning, maturation and development. Although schooling hours have remained the same, the expected elements to be reinforced at home have grown. Simultaneously, parents working longer hours(especially in low income communities) have less time to help with this reinforcement. This structure breeds mediocrity at best. It doesn't encourage learners to explore or expand their thinking or knowledge beyond the required mastery level for their grade. Even in communities with well supported school systems, learners are leashed to the mastery of particular subjects and skills. I don't think that measuring mastery or skills is inherently bad, but it seems connecting these with an age level/school year calendar misses the mark. Our testing strategies fail to recognize differences in learning and don't search for excellence. I think we need huge disruption in education. I don't know exactly what that looks like, but here are a few possibilities: - Eliminate K-12 age based model - Eliminate Agrarian schedule - Focus on learners' hierarchy of needs - Increase experiential learning and play - Revamp assessments to look for excellence not just mastery - Use assessments as assessments and not as barriers for further learning - Encourage creation (building, writing, cooking, art, coding, etc.) - Foster diversity of thought - Implement peer teaching

  • Dan Moulthrop

    These are all great ideas, Phil. Over on Facebook, where I shared this, someone pointed to Montesorri High School, which is trying to do a lot of what you point to.

  • Barbara Andelman

    Our region is facing a looming workforce shortage - projected to be down by over 11% in the next decade - and as a result, employers are in critical need of growing their workforce pipeline. This is especially true for the health care, IT, advanced manufacturing, engineering and construction industries. At the same time our high schools are filled with young people, approaching graduation, who are unaware of the career pathways these industries offer and who have not had the resources and tools to explore their career options first-hand. Career exploration through job shadowing - which is at the heart of the webtool prep2practice - is critical to helping young people enter the workforce prepared. Whether planning to further their education or enter the workforce directly, students who have the opportunity to gain an insight into the careers of the future and build an awareness of the skills needed are more likely to be inspired in school and make purposeful decisions about their future. Studies show that 65% of students identify personal experiences as the leading influence over their career path. Yet schools and parents have not previously had the tools needed to cultivate the needed business relationships and match students with shadowing experiences. We hear it every day: parents are desperate to help their children explore their career options and gain exposure to the career pathways of the future. Through prep2practice, employers in our region are able to easily reach out to our region’s young workforce, expose them to new career paths and inspire them to dream big. The more employers who offer shadowing experiences, the more students who will benefit. Job shadowing offers a win-win proposition: It helps area businesses facing workforce challenges to showcase their career options and attract new talent while giving our young people a clearer vision about their future and an opportunity to have their “Aha” moment. We are excited to be a part of this conversation and look forward to working with the City Club, Governor’s office and others to identify and implement solutions aimed at modernizing the system for the next generation. Barbara Andelman, Director prep2practice