Becoming a Human by Billie Eilish – An Education Reform Primer
Billie Eilish is a young, tenured professor at Harvard University, and she has discovered a whole new field of study. To find out how many more fields of study she can discover, read the following excerpt from her book, Becoming a Human. “The discipline of archaeology isn’t new: in fact, it is only recently that its significance as a force for world history has begun to be fully recognized. In short, archaeology is what you make of it.
‘Historical archaeology,’ as it is called, has often been associated with the right hand side of the modern university faculty. It’s perhaps best remembered by students and scholars, however, for the discovery of ‘lost’ archaeological sites in the jungles of East and South Asia and Europe. Theories of widespread cultural diffusion, or social change and evolution, also took shape in this field. These theories, drawn from different disciplines, help us understand how modern humans, living in different regions of the world, built civilizations. Just as important as the findings themselves, archaeology is recognized for its rigor and strict adherence to formalities, which distinguish it from other humanities disciplines.”
Through her research, Eilish has developed the field of education reform. Education reform, as we know it, has created a little more of a problem than Eilish expected it would. The problems she identifies in her research are ones that are critical to solving the larger problem.
By itself, education reform is a nebulous topic. Those who focus on high-stakes standardized testing are often stigmatized as elitist, or, worse, reformers who don’t care about the education of students. Others speak of keeping education at the forefront of government policy, as if it were something that could be taken lightly. However, in an environment where the power dynamics of the classroom, and the lack thereof, have gotten so distorted, the term education reform can actually be a little damaging. In her own words, Eilish cautions against writing off education reform.
She writes: “With education reform, I’m not referring to just one person’s voice or thinking, but rather to those within the academic community, those charged with defining what is good teaching and what is bad, and what education reform should mean to a nation and its citizens. One challenge of the job is to define what is good teaching, to focus attention on quality. Because the Internet offers ways to communicate and bring subjects and scholars together, a distance becomes less important.
“The internet creates a platform for bringing issues that are ‘out there’ into the public eye, and the use of technology makes the need for a focus even more urgent. This is why social media is so important, because it allows the public to be in on the conversation, to see what is going on, and to feel connected. And that’s exactly what teachers do. We are the first line of defense for teaching; we are the most visible face of education.
In this, education reform has become the conversation, and the formative act, of our era. In Becoming a Human, Eilish provides us with a primer on the issues and events that are shaping the future of education reform. Eilish clearly states that, while the debate over education reform has heated up lately, the solution lies in a careful evaluation of existing policies and the extent to which they promote educational excellence. The author highlights the importance of clearly articulating expectations of students, teachers, and parents as the foundation for any successful education reform.
As a professor, author, and advocate for social justice, Billie Eilish’s book is a must-read for anyone interested in learning more about education reform and what the future holds for students. Throughout the book, Eilish reminds us that we should not discount the role of education reform in the public sphere. While many may cringe at the label “education reform,” it is a label that we should embrace, as we continue to wrestle with the facts of education reform.
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