Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
Over the course of the last few months, I have written and spoken endlessly about the desperate need for critical and creative thinking in our schools. I haven’t given many details about how we can do that, so I am going to give you an example. Let me preface this by saying that this is not the only way to do this, but something I have done.
This semester, at Augusta University, I have been teaching a First Year Experience class for first year students. The theme for the year was Heroes and Humans. We were able to create any course we wanted to around this theme. My course was titled, “Students as Heroes: Becoming and Activist.” The idea of this course was for groups of students to find a cause of concern, research it, write about it, create a social media presence, and design a webpage. Some of the obvious areas of study were research, writing, marketing, rhetoric and persuasion, history (of the cause), technology, and communications.
For the class, the students came up with the following causes that they wanted the greater university to become more aware of:
Preservation of Public Space and Environmental Awareness
Animal Rights and Sea World
For this project, they were to create flyers, sign up students to get more information, and start campus conversations about their topics. As the final project, all students in the First Year Experience classes campus-wide have an Expo to share what they did in class. There are presentation boards, laptop computers, projectors, and presentations. My class, to promote communication, did little in terms of “presentation,” but went person to person to talk about what they had studied. They had people sign petitions so they could get more information. The person that studied HIV Awareness handed out condoms (remember, this is a college class and it was her idea—in fact it was a condom with a mint…condomints).
So, as the students studied areas of interest and things that ignited their passions, they were able to think critically about issues and what they truly meant. They had to make decisions about how to convince others, market their ideas, and persuade their peers about their causes. They creatively reached out to the public through their websites, some groups created buttons, others created social media campaigns.
The idea behind the First Year Experience class is to teach inquiry. To ask questions. To seek out answers. To research. To learn. In my class, we did all of those things. In addition, hopefully, the students became more aware of the world around them and started thinking deeply about their community and the greater good.
My name is Andrew Kemp. I am a candidate for the Columbia County, Georgia, School Board for District 3.
Attached are photos from the Expo where they shared their ideas.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
Over the last few weeks, a number of people have asked me why I am running for the school board. This question has tumbled around in my head bouncing from the specific to the abstract, from the idealistic to the practical. Over the last few days for some reason, it has started to become more clear and tangible.
I love my children. I want them to have a happy and healthy future. I want them to be successful in life and to be active members of society. I want them prepared for the complexities of living in this society.
Our schools aren’t doing that. Even schools that are considered excellent, like in Columbia County, are severely lacking when it comes to any kind of preparation for life. I know. We have “college and career readiness” programs and curriculum. That isn’t a preparation for life. That is a preparation for the workforce. Life is more than a job.
Life is about being able to consider various viewpoints and make a decision.
Life is about being able to take a stand.
Life is about being comfortable with who you are and be able to celebrate that.
Life is about finding creative solutions to problems.
Life is about finding what you love and pursuing it.
Life is about thinking critically about the world around you.
Life is about caring about your peers, neighbors, community, and world.
Life is about processing information to create new and innovative ideas.
Life is about discovering who you are, what you believe, and what is important.
Our schools aren’t doing that. We are so concerned with test scores, money, being right, and striving to be the best, that we have lost sight of childhood. We demand academic greatness, but at what cost?
Why am I running? Because we can do it better. We can take what we do well and expand it. We can create schools that not only achieve high marks on the measures that are given, but also create meaningful learning environments.
I know this is an odd reference, but in the movie Footloose (the Kevin Bacon one), Reverend Shaw (played by John Lithgow) says, “If we don't start trusting our children... how will they ever become trustworthy?” Well, the same is true about our schools. If we don’t let our children think, analyze, discover, and create….how will they ever be able to think, analyze, discover, and create?
Why am I running? I want my daughters, no, I want all children to not be so consumed with the content of school that they miss out on living. I want all children to be active members of their communities, of society, and of the country. I want all children to be able to think for themselves and be able to made decisions.
My name is Andrew Kemp. The reason I am running for the Columbia County, Georgia School Board for District 3 is to take what we do well, and move it forward so that all students can have the knowledge, skills, and background to live a successful and happy life.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
Well, it is official. Today around 10am I filled out the final paperwork for qualifying for the election. I gave the name as I wanted to see it on the ballot (I hope I didn’t misspell.). I sent out my financial disclosure forms. I formally created my campaign committee. I am an official candidate for Columbia County (Georgia) School Board, District 3. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would run for public office. But, times are such that I had to do something.
The reason that I am running for this office is to try to help change what we are doing in schools. Now, don’t get me wrong. The schools in Columbia County are great. But, our education system is so focused on right and wrong, black and white, yes and no, that we are missing the context of creativity and critique.
We need to rethink what we are doing. Now, I am a realist. I know that in this educational climate, testing and money go hand in hand. However, there are ways to teach, curricula that can be designed, and materials that can be used in which test scores stay high, but students also can think creatively. They can act critically. They can problem solve. They can discover. They can explore. They can grow.
That is my plan. Yes, I know that dealing with school issues, zoning, budgeting and other things is part of the position. But, it can be more than that.
My name is Andrew Kemp. I have qualified for the election as a candidate for Columbia County School Board, District 3. Please help me move forward.
Partisanship and Schools
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
I find myself in a new place. Since I started running for the Columbia County (Georgia) School Board, District 3, I have found myself with a whirlwind of ideas. As someone that has spent an entire life in education (either student, teacher, or professor), I feel like I have gained the experience and education required to make informed decisions that are in the best interests of all students.
And then there is the political sphere. Whether we like it or not, running for a public office is a political act. This race, for the school board, is non-partisan. You cannot declare a party. Education is supposed to be free from political influence. Yet, I have read comments to articles about the political leanings of candidates. I have been asked directly with which party I identify. I have been put on the spot to label myself.
Does it matter? My one and only concern is to improve the education of our children. We are bound by the shackles of testing and assessment. In my opinion, it has taken away from our educational system. While almost every school espouses the virtues of critical and creative thinking, how does that happen when everything has been broken down into testable pieces.
During this campaign, I have reached out to both parties. However, recently, reaching out and being asked specifically for a label, I was told, “No.” I wasn’t that party. They didn’t want to hear what I had to say. For a non-partisan race, it certainly seems partisan.
I am here, I am running for the betterment of our schools. Where I live, we have an outstanding school district. The scores are high, students move on to college and career, and the reputation is great. But, there is more to schools that this. It is more than, “Move them along to college and career.” This is the time for students to learn to live, to think, to understand, to analyze. It is the time to critique, to participate in the world, to discover. It is the time to be creative, critical and conscientious. Right now our schools teach students three things: content, conformity, and compliance. And then we expect them to be contributing members of society.
If those things and wanting those things are partisan issues, I guess I am partisan. Are there issues where I am slanted one way? Of course. I don’t think we should arm teachers. I think schools should not focus just on skills and content, but on critical and creative thinking. I think that teachers aren’t just there to fill young minds with information, but to allow students to question. I think that we only celebrate success (tests, grades and awards). We need to let children fail. There is a famous quote that has been attributed to Thomas Edison. He said, I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” We don’t let our students fail and learn from failure.
If this is partisan, wanting more from our schools, then I am partisan. And you should be, too.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors.
After the tragic events in Parkland, there has been a movement of students about the issue of school safety. Recently, someone asked my opinion on the idea of student protests, walkouts, and the threat of punishment.
I think that everyone wants our youth to be thoughtful and involved in the world around them. The First Amendment grants, “The right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” With this in mind, I believe that students have the right to protest and have a well-planned and organized walkout. Students availing themselves of their right to protest in support of safer schools is not only noble, but also has the potential of enacting the discussion that we need to have.
I would urge schools and teachers to not punish students for airing the concerns and make sure that the situation remained safe.
We want students to be thoughtful members of society. We want students to be problem solvers. We want students to be active in their communities.
I am not saying that they should protest everything as an excuse to get out of school. This situation is unique and deserves attention.
Educator John Dewey once stated, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” Let students experience life. There should be no punishment, no threats of retaliation. Teachers should not assign things during that time as punishment. Something need to change. In fact, I believe that teachers should join them to provide guidance, safety, and support.
Being a member of a democracy is work. Finding out what is important is work. Students should have the right to protest this event. We need safe schools and have serious discussions about them.
As an educator, I feel that it is my duty to address the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. And Marshall County, Kentucky. And Rancho Tehama Reserve, California. And Roseburg, Oregon. And Newtown, Connecticut. And…actually, the tragedy is that I was only picking places with many deaths. And public schools. If I were to list all school shootings, it would go on for pages and pages. And that is not counting non-school shootings. Las Vegas. Orlando. Virginia Tech (which is a school shooting, but not the P-12 system).
As a former teacher in Florida, I cannot fathom what the feelings are there.
To be clear, I am a proponent of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and what they stand for. However, this is a working document. It has been amended and changed. The First Amendment has limitations (such as you don’t have total free speech at work, speech at schools, obscenity, slander, etc.). After the Bill of Rights, there were 17 other amendments that were ratified. With changes in technology, the growth of the population, and other issues, we need to consider keeping the Constitution and Bill of Rights updated to match contemporary society. It has happened before (voting rights, term limits, etc.).
With that being said, our schools cannot be dangerous. Students need to feel safe to learn. Psychologist Abraham Maslow created a hierarchy of needs that need to be met for students to be able to become self-actualized and learn. Just about physiological needs are needs of safety. Without being safe, people cannot find love and belonging, self-esteem, and ultimately self-actualization.
A common idea that has been circulating is to arm teachers. As a former school teacher, in no way should an educator have that responsibility. Aside from the technical issues (where a gun would be, securing it, making sure it wasn’t stolen, etc.), an educator’s job is to educate. When the teacher becomes an armed bodyguard, it is time to rethink the entire system.
So, you might ask, what can we do? If we can’t protect ourselves, what options do we have? The problem is bigger than this. There are 5 million (that is 5,000,000) AR-15 rifles in circulation. That is one for every 65 people. There are also 270 guns in circulation in the U.S. How do these school shootings happen? People have guns.
I do not have a solution. But, I know we do need to start having serious conversations.
However, what I do know is that if we want students to be successful, to be critical and creative thinkers, they cannot live in fear. Right now, I think, there is fear. This happens too often. As a society, we get outraged, and then nothing changes. Well, something needs to change.
Our children are who we are. Each time one dies in a school shooting, or through suicide, or through careless behavior, we, as a country are diminished.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
As we move forward in this election campaign, I have been blogging about education, our schools, my beliefs, and, to be honest, some random stuff. You can find my blog at http://andrewtkemp.com/blog/.
Today, I want to talk about the mission of the Columbia County School District. According to the website (http://www.ccboe.net/) the mission is We LEARN.
Lead by Example
Expect All to Succeed
Achieve excellence through engaging experiences
Respect and value each other
Now and tomorrow
Lead by Example: This first statement is essential. I think we should lead by example. However, what we want for our children is to be critical and creative thinkers. This is the example we must set. We must have teachers that are critical thinkers and creative practitioners to make education come alive. I know that many are, but we need to strive to make our schools not just places of content, but places if learning and inspiration.
Expect All to Succeed: This is a primary part of my platform—education for all. I want to ensure a quality education for all students regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, or ability. I want all students to succeed. However, we can’t have generic measures of success. Students are individuals. Our measures of success should allow for individuality.
Achieve Excellence Through Engaging Experiences: Learning is an active process. Learning needs context. Learning needs to be engaging. I think that students spend too much time in textbooks. I understand and support the need for a strong education filled with literature, science, social studies, math, music, career education, and art. However, much of what we do is about learning facts. We need to have students be engaged in their education through rethinking what we do.
Respect and Value Each Other: In these times of conflict and a society at social war within itself, I think that teaching about others is of vital importance. We are a society of different views, different beliefs, and different ways in which we define ourselves. We need to celebrate the diversity of everyone so that, perhaps, we can learn from each other and find commonality and unity in who we are.
Now and Tomorrow: I know it might seem odd, but I like this simple sentiment. Our schools need to focus on now and tomorrow. We don’t need to be stuck in the past with what we do. We must allow students not only live in the moment, to make decisions that can change their lives for the better, but to look toward making decisions for a better future.
My name is Andrew Kemp. I am running for the Columbia County School Board District 3.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
While thinking about my candidacy for the School Board of Columbia County, Georgia, I have come to a conclusion. Education is an odd profession. I don’t mean the profession itself. I mean how we think of education. In almost every field, there is some board, governing body, or executive council that is tasked with overseeing the profession. For lawyers, it is the Bar Association. For doctors, it is the American Medical Association. Engineers? In Georgia we have the Georgia Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. In each of these professions, experts in the field are tasked with making decisions. In fact, according to the state website regarding the Georgia Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, “The Board consists of nine members appointed by the Governor for a term of five years: six professional engineers, two land surveyors, and a member appointed from the public at large.”
So, why is it in education, the profession that has a direct influence on the future of society, do we give this task to lawyers, politicians, accountants, business people, and a host of other professions? Why isn’t the school board made up of educators?
Now, I do think that there should be representation of the community on a school board. However, like the Georgia Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, the bulk of the membership should be educators. In a 2009 study, the Council of Great City Schools found that only 14% of urban school board members were educators. This mirrors the 17% that I discovered doing research during my doctoral work.
So, why is it that we want professionals from the field to oversee other professions, but not in education? Being a teacher, educator, administrator, or other educational professional is not easy. It requires a degree. It requires certification. It requires certification examinations. Yes, representation of the community is important and essential to an effective school board. But, shouldn’t the bulk of decision makers be educators?
My name is Andrew Kemp. I am running for the Columbia County School Board in Georgia. I was a public school teacher for 9 years. I was a program coordinator for two years. I have a Master’s and Doctorate in education. I have taught in a College of Education for 10 years. I have the requisite knowledge and experience to help lead Columbia County Schools.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
The other day I was talking to my daughter. She is a junior in high school. We were talking about college and school. She told me how much she loves to learn. She also told me how much she hates school.
As a father and educator, this troubled me. How can someone that says she loves to learn, hate school? So, we talked.
What I learned is that learning new things is exciting. Being able to think about new things is invigorating. Being creative is stimulating. But, in school, the system mutes these things. The day is filled with worksheets, memorization, and regurgitation. The day isn’t filled with discovery. The day is filled with lectures, notes, and preparing for tests. Then, it is on to the next topic. After school, there is homework. More of the same work. And the cycle goes on and on.
Children are creative and want to learn. Think about a young child. A child loves to color, to draw, to paint, to tell stories, to build things, to use clay, to pretend. But, by the time they get to middle school and high school, this has desire has been extinguished. How has this happened?
What is the focus of our education system? Our schools in Columbia County have high test scores. SAT/ACT scores are outstanding. Our AP pass rate is high. But, at what cost? Each of these are based on tests and measurements. What are the tests for creativity? Critical thinking? Inspiration?
Recently, I was at a school board meeting and there was a large recognition for schools that are finding high levels of success with PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) which is a management and discipline system. We were celebrating behavior. Yes, there was a celebration of All State Band and other things, but where are we going?
We have a created an education system that is more about rewards than about knowledge, more about scores than about thoughts, and more about recognition than inspiration.
Do we have schools that educate? Of course. But, to what end? Do we want our children to know things or be able to do things? Do we want our children to be able to bubble in answers or create ideas? Do we want our children to know history or be historians, know science or be scientists, know literature or be writers, understand business or be entrepreneurs?
Our schools are successful at what they do. I just ask, is it enough?
If elected, I will work with the school board, the schools, the teachers, the administrators, and the students to create learning environments that don’t just prepare our children for test, but prepare them for life.
My name is Andrew Kemp. I am running for the Columbia County School Board, District. 3.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
The election is quickly coming upon us. It is May 22, 2018. In addition to primaries for other races, the election for the school board will be here. If you have had the chance, please visit my website, http://andrewtkemp.com/, to learn more about my campaign. Feel free to contact me with any questions. If you would like to have me speak about education, I would happily accept any invitation.
With that in mind, I have a few things I would like to share. First, I am looking for volunteers. I have cards and signs that I want to share. I need people to go door-to-door and get the word out about my campaign. I would love for people to host fundraisers and/or meet and greets. I am happy to talk to you about education. Please contact me if interested (email@example.com/).
Second, just so you know, I am a political person. I don’t mean that I play politics. I am certainly not a politician. I just follow politics and strong beliefs. I am sure there are things upon which we agree and things on which we don’t. However, my background is in education. I was a public school teacher/administrator for 11 years. I have taught in a College of Education since 2007. In fact, with the exception of one year when I worked for my father, I have been a teacher or students my entire life (well, since I was 5). My goal is to create an even better education system in Columbia County. I want an education for all students. I want every student to feel accepted, open, and have the ability to maximize her/his potential.
Please shoot me a message. Let me know how I can help.
My name is Drew Kemp. I am running for the Columbia County School Board-District 3.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
I hope the fall is treating you all well. The weather is finally cooling down and the windows are open.
With the election less than 7 months away, I wanted to put more focus on why I am running. I am a parent and an educator. What I want most out of education is for my children to be critical and creative thinkers. I want them to be thoughtful about their decisions. I want them to be able to consider information and make informed decisions. I want them to be active members of our democracy.
We have excellent schools in Columbia County. Many of our students test at the highest levels. But, high-stakes testing is not enough. While the need for remembering information, understanding it, and applying it where it is appropriate is important, we need our students to be able to analyze information and evaluate the quality. We need our students to be able to consider various viewpoints. Ultimately, we need our students to be able think creatively and solve problems. We need our students to be doers.
This is what I want for my children. This is what I want for all children.
I order to do this, we must consider measures of success other than high-states tests and constant evaluation. We must allow students to make mistakes and not be punished for them. We must allow teachers the freedom to create meaningful learning environments that are not about the accumulation of information, but the use of information to solve problems, generate ideas, and be thoughtful citizens.
We can make our excellent schools better. We can loosen the shackles of constant testing and evaluation and move toward an innovative school system that is looking forward, not living in the past.
My name is Andrew Kemp and I am running for the Columbia County School Board for District 3. Please give me your support by donating or volunteering for my campaign.
Friends, Neighbors, and Colleagues,
The election for the Columbia County School Board is on May 22, 2018. That is seven months from now. I need your help.
Over the course of the last few months, I have posted ideas from my platform, shared my beliefs, and given you my background in education. I have come to know a lot of you, had some fascinating conversations, and come to understand this community more.
Now, it is time to move forward. I, Drew Kemp, want to represent District 3 on the Columbia County School Board. I am an educator. I am a thinker. I am a doer. But, most importantly, and believe in an education for all students. In fact, this is my platform.
I believe that every student, regardless of socio-economic status, ability, gender, sexuality, religion, spirituality, race, or ethnicity has the right to a public education that not only allows for critical and creative thinking, but also begins to impart the skills to be a happy and healthy member of a democratic society.
The first thing that we need to do in order to accomplish this is to allow teachers to be the professionals they are. To be a teacher in Georgia you must have at least a Bachelor’s degree (and many have higher degrees), have completed an approved teacher preparation program, and passed state tests in education and content. A teacher must continue her/his education through professional development, additional college credits, and/or continuing education units. Teachers are evaluated every year, multiple times.
Yet, our system, the system, wants to create pre-fabricated lessons. It wants scripts. It wants homogeneity. Our students are not clones, nor should they be taught that way. Let teachers be professionals. Let counselors do their jobs. Let administrators be curriculum and instruction leaders. Let schools focus on critical and creative thinking and not test preparation.
So, join me in my endeavor to make our schools even better than they already are. As a member of your School Board, I want to create discussions about how we can improve on the excellence in our schools. I want to go into schools and talk to teachers, counselors, and administrators and come up with creative solutions to improving our already excellent schools.
So, I am asking for your help in one of the following ways.
My name is Drew Kemp and I am running for the Columbia County School Board.
We Need Avocados
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
The way that schools are measured is basically a lie. Yes, I said it. Schools are measured on a number of things related to testing. It is a combination of achievement, progress, and comparison to peers. But, students, teachers, administrators, and schools are just reduced to numbers, scores, and statistics.
Why is it a lie? Because periodically the state changes the formula. In 2015, the numbers were adjusted. Points for achievement went down. Progress (students compared to similar peers) went up. Closing the achievement gap went down. In addition, in 2015, a new test was used. New norms. (http://www.ajc.com/…/state-revises-…/nX9lS09zZwQPaJHEfCYyrK/)
What does this mean? Test scores, school grades, accountability measures—they are all created numbers. They are fabrications trying to measure the unmeasurable.
Now, does it give information about students, teachers, and schools? Yes. Absolutely. But, it only gives a sliver of the reality of schooling. Imagine if you were to determine the quality of a recipe by the amount of salt in it. Salt, while important, is only a part of the bigger picture. What about all of the other ingredients? The other day I made guacamole. Here is my recipe:
1 Medium Vidalia Onion
1 Serrano Pepper
1 Plum Tomato
2 Tablespoons of Cilantro Paste
2 Teaspoons of Himalayan Salt
Now, when I made it, I left out the salt at first. I figured the corn chips would have enough. They didn’t. I added the salt. It was much better. Was the salt important? Yes, it was. However, it was only a part of the recipe. In fact, it was the least important part. I could have lived without the salt. I couldn’t have lived without the avocados.
What we need in looking at our schools is looking more at the avocados, the onions, the peppers, the tomatoes, and the cilantro. We need to look at student engagement. We need to look at the depth of the curriculum. We need to look at the integration of the community. We need to look at college readiness (and I don’t meat SAT scores, but the realities of college) and career readiness. We need to look at authentic measures of learning that have meaning.
My name is Andrew Kemp. I am running for the School Board of Columbia County, Georgia.
Hello Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
Just a few thoughts on this Tuesday afternoon.
I cannot express how important critical and creative thinking is. Over the course of the last few weeks, I have spent a lot of time thinking about confirmation bias. Confirmation bias, the idea that any new evidence that we find fits in with our pre-existing beliefs and we force it to do so, is riddled with fraught. We have stopping thinking about issues and only think about being correct. We ignore evidence, disregard contrary opinions, and push aside conversations that are uncomfortable.
Do we want our children to be able to think, to analyze, to conceptualize, to evaluate, and to truly understand issues? Or do we want to continue with the oversimplification of ideas, the adherence to conformity of opinion, and blind compliance?
As someone that has had many a discussion online that has just become a rehash of the same arguments and the attachments of the same evidence, I know that we can do more. Our schools need to teach critical thought, debate, and how to have a meaningful discussion about subjects that matter.
With the overwhelming amount of testing, we are creating a generation that can read and write, but has nothing to discuss.
As a member of the Columbia County School Board, I will fight to decrease the influence of testing and bring our schools back to a place where critical and creative thinking is paramount.
My name is Andrew Kemp and I am running for the School Board of Columbia County, Georgia.
Hello Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors (wherever you are),
As you know, my name is Andrew Kemp and I am running for the Columbia County School Board, District 3. I am sure that you have many questions for me. I am here is answer any questions that you have. Please feel free to ask me about my views of education, my beliefs about learning, or anything else you want to know about me. I will give you a straight answer even if I think it isn’t the answer you want to here. To start, here is a little bit about me.
• I was born in Melbourne, Florida in 1969.
• I have lived in Indialantic, Florida, Melbourne, Florida, Tampa, Florida, Palm Bay, Florida, Merritt Island, Florida, Brookings, South Dakota, Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Sycamore, Illinois, and now Evans, Georgia.
• I have a B.A. in English from the University of South Florida, an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from South Dakota State University, and an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University Central Florida.
• I have been a high school English teacher, a high school program coordinator, and a college professor.
• Outside of education, I have been a dishwasher, a farm manager, worked in a library, a gas station clerk, worked at a lakeside resort doing whatever needed to be done, and an editor.
• Politically, I am liberal. But, this is a non-partisan race and I am about improving education.
• I have two daughters that are 16 and 18.
• I was married for 22 years (together 27). She died of liver and kidney failure in March 2015.
• I have found a wonderful new person in my life.
• I am a writer and musician.
• I listen to all types of music. My favorites are metal and punk. My least favorites are rap and country (although I do listen to both from time to time).
• My favorite book is Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. My favorite popular book is The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.
• I love the Beat poets and the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance.
• My favorite musician is Bruce Springsteen.
• I am Buddhist.
• I am a vegetarian. It is mostly just for health reasons. I am trying to get in shape.
• I love fishing, but rarely do it.
• I used to play and coach soccer. More than 25 years of experience.
There is a lot more, but that is a start. Let me know what you want to know.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
It has been a while since an update. The main reason for the delay has been my job as a faculty member in the College of Education and Augusta University. I have been teaching two different classes that are closely related. The subject? Place-based education. For those of you that aren’t familiar with this term, place-based education is an educational idea in which the content of the classroom is based on the community and local issues. Instead of studying the rainforest in elementary school, study the Georgia forest. Study local history, economics, literature, art, biology, chemistry, agriculture and business. Get community leaders and businesses involved in the schools. Teach students to cherish the community, the people, and the environment.
For those who might question this vision, what is it that we want our children to know and to be able to do? Do we want students to know history or think like a historian? If we want them to read, does it matter what they read? Why not read something that has context? Beowulf? Separated by time and culture and language? Use local literature.
A popular argument against this idea is that if you only learn about what is local, what if you move? Learning about where you live is transferrable. If you know where to look, what to look for, and how to find things, you can live anywhere. However, learning about where you live also causes students to appreciate where they live. In turn, there is less violence, less vandalism, and a greater since of community. Volunteerism goes up. People help each other. And, communities tend to thrive.
Now, there are three issues here. It isn’t about only teaching what is local. I am not advocating abandoning what we do in schools. I am talking about enhancing and making education relevant. Second, what about standards? There is ample research suggesting that teaching just to standards limits education. Getting the students interested in what they are learning does more toward improving test scores than the drill and kill that we do now. Finally, what about tradition? We all know we learn in school. The problem is that this doesn’t really change. As things advance in science, math, literature, historical knowledge, business, music, art, and technology, our schools are not following along. We still insist on teaching the same things that the generations past learned. We are locked into a curriculum that doesn’t move forward. That is okay. How many times in your life have you been crippled by not knowing Shakespeare, the date of a war, or endoplasmic reticulum (wow…I spelled that right on the first try). Yes, if you are an English major, a historian, or a biologist, that is important. But, for everyone? By making education locally relevant, to learn the subjects in the context of place, education comes alive.
In schools, we need to create thinkers, historians, writers, musicians, farmers, graphic designers, mathematicians, and scientists. We need our schools to teach skills that will allow students to do things, not just know things. We need teachers to have the freedom to teach creativity and critical thinking over characters, numbers, and places. We need forward thinking schools and not schools that are stuck in the past.
My name is Andrew Kemp and I am running for the Columbia County School Board—District 3. The election date is May 22, 2018. I urge you to vote. I prefer you to vote for me, but most importantly, be a part of the process of democracy.
PS—I would appreciate any support you can give to my campaign. I am finding that even the smallest things (website support, advertising, etc.) quickly add up. If everyone were able to give $10, I would be set for now. I have been looking into the costs of yard signs and other campaign items (buttons, pens, shirts) and they are expensive.
Friends, Colleagues, and Neighbors,
It has been a few weeks since I have posted. I felt like I was overdoing it a bit with posts and requests for support. But, with the election less than a year away I believe that you need and deserve to know me as I want to know you. So, I am going to post more regularly about issues in education, my views, things about me, and issues that I think we should be discussing.
I have been giving a lot of thought to the conversations that have been going on about guns, race, sexuality, health care, taxes, religion, travel, Russia, obstruction, political parties, and ideologies. The rhetoric is brutal, violent, and dismissive. People from both sides are using any information that they find online as evidence of their side. With this inundation of information, it is important to be able to sift through mess and formulate an idea of what is really going on.
Here is the problem. Information is persuasive. The information doesn’t have to be correct, true, or reliable. But, if it fits someone’s worldview, it holds weight. With sites like Occupy Democrats, Infowars, Breitbart, U.S. Uncut, Red State, and Addicting Info all using sensationalism and confirmation bias to further strengthen beliefs, it isn’t surprising that we are getting more and more fractured as a society. In addition, there are bloggers out there that write with seeming facts, but are just opinion pieces that do the same. Even the legitimate media has bias (Huffington Post and Fox News) that does the same.
I read news from across the spectrum. On my Sirius XM radio, I have the BBC, Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN saved as sources. When a story comes up, I listen to each to hear the different perspectives. I subscribe to the Economist and Time for print media. I gather information from the New York Times and Washington Post. I go online to read the National Review and The Guardian.
What does this mean to me? As a candidate for the Columbia County School Board I want to push students toward being critical thinkers. I want our children to be able to gather information, evaluate that information, weigh the validity of information, and come to conclusions based on rationality and the ability to discern what is real by the accumulation of knowledge.
However, this isn’t only about news and politics. This same skill set can be applied to literature, science, history, and any other content area. Being able to process and use information is an essential skill that we all need.
Democracy isn’t easy. Democracy requires effort. Democracy requires people to understand the world around them and to be able to not be bullied into believing a single world view. Democracy requires people to be able to think for themselves and not be blinded by anger, hate, bigotry, or fear. This goes on both sides of the spectrum.
As someone that has devoted his life to education and to the education of all members of our society (from high school to grad school), we need to strip away the mandates and assessments that are crippling critical and creative thinking. Yes, many individual teachers do a great job in individual classrooms, but the system is set up for a conformity of thought, compliance, and regurgitative knowledge. As we move forward, society needs to be able to think. Students need to develop a love for reading. Students need to be challenged to think critically. Students need to be creative problem solvers.
With all of that in mind, as a school board member and lifelong advocate for education, I want to help create a school district that is not shackled by assessments and test prep and the standardization of thought. I support the expansion programs that challenge students to think critically and creatively.
My name is Andrew Kemp and I am running for the School Board of Columbia County, Georgia.
With the exception of one year, I have been a students or teacher my entire life. I have been a public school student, earned three degrees, taught overseas, been a public school teacher and program coordinator, and have 10 years of experience in higher education as a faculty member in education. One thing that has grown for me throughout my life in education is that we need an education that focuses on critical and creative thinking for all students.
There are many people that think our education system is a failure. They cite the numbers where students aren’t able to read or do math. Test scores are published and schools are admonished for failure. The question is, what do these scores mean? What is this culture of testing and assessment doing to education?
I argue that these tests are only singular measure rooted in time and place. They do not represent the year or years of learning that have occurred. The public demands accountability for schools, but in doing so has reduced education to a system of standards, assessments and scores. Many teachable moments are lost due to intense focus on the “success” of these tests. Students are not individuals; they are numbers and scores.
Schools are not a failure. Could they be better? Of course. But, so could medicine, law, construction, retail, hospitality and any other profession. Diane Ravitch notes that the failure of our school system is a myth perpetuated by textbook companies and politicians to create a need for profit and control. Students graduating from schools are doing great things. Science, technology, engineering, literature, music….they are all progressing. Innovations are happening. We are creating new and great things.
However, I believe that schools are declining because of assessment. Education has been refocused onto testable knowledge, not critical and creative thinking. Are schools in a state of complete disarray? Not at all. But, we can do better. Our schools and school systems are being shackled by testing Movements to cut funding and move it into the private sector (vouchers, charter school corporations) and dismantling are deteriorating the structure of the public education system. Cuts to the arts, special education, and CTAE (career, technical, and agricultural engineering) are reframing the narrative of a public education for all.
This is why I am running for the school board. I have 21 years of experience as a professional educator. I have been a public school teacher, program coordinator, teacher educator, and professor of advanced educational studies. Columbia County Schools are known for being some of the best in the state. Much of this is due to the test scores. We can make Columbia County Schools not only high in the rankings, but renowned for innovative curriculum and teaching, creative programs, forward thinking teachers, and educators with an eye for progress.
Here is what I want to do:
My name is Andrew Kemp. I am running for the Columbia County School Board. If you would like to support my campaign and the education of our children (and I think you do), please consider donating at http://gofundme.com/kemp4ccboe/.
In educational circles, there is term coined, “Best Practices.” Best practices are taught in virtually every teacher education program. Teach for America uses them. There are books, papers, professional learning days, and conference strands on best practices. Best practices are point of order for the education and training of teachers.
The term makes sense. Why wouldn’t we want to do what is best for the practice for teaching? However, this term is a misnomer. Best practices and the best practices for the middle. They are the techniques that work for the students that hover near the middle of the first standard deviation. They influence the ‘most’ people. Perhaps that is the term we should use. The most practices.
With the exception of some specialty programs in urban education, best practices are actually the best practices for the majority, suburban culture. In fact, teacher education is geared toward the majority, suburban culture. Yes, there are classes on special education and multicultural education. But, these are add-ons. They are taught as additional to the curriculum of how to teach.
Education is about all students. While best practices help with certain skills, the goal of our educational system should be to give equal opportunity to all students. We need to focus on urban education. We need to focus on rural education. We need to focus on education for critical thinking. We need to focus on education for creativity. And yes, we need to focus on the majority, suburban culture. But, not just the middle.
Right now teachers, administrators and district level leaders have their hands tied by testing. They focus on best practices so make the most people score well on the tests. Life is about more than tests. Life is about more than speaking to the majority. Life is about developing the skills and knowledge to be able to think.
The other day I was privy to a conversation with some administrators in a local school district (not Columbia County) in which the topic was school improvement. Understand, I have my own personal views about how to improve schools which I have introduced previously and will continue to do so. However, this conversation stunned me. While the goal was change and improvement, the entire focus was how to do it within the notion of standards, the system, and assessment.
I understand why. This is where we are in education. What we do is mandated. The goal is to master national and state created standards. At the same time, the mantra is about critical and creative thinking. In my opinion, this creates and incompatible system.
Why you may ask? Schools are judged on test scores. They can be state scores, SAT/ACT scores, Milestones tests or reading batteries. The goal of education is to measure. However, critical and creative thinking are more difficult to measure. How do you measure inspiration? How do you measure creative problem solving? How do you measure and true understanding of society? Because of the reductionist view of education, deconstructing knowledge into measureable elements, schools are paralyzed into a relatively singular notion of success.
Administrators have become educational managers. According to Stever Robbins of Entrepreneur Magazine, “Leaders are the heart of a business. The essence of leadership means inspiring a group to come together for a common goal. Leaders motivate, console and work with people to keep them bonded and eager to move forward. That means setting a direction, communicating it to everyone who will listen (and probably many who won't) and keeping people psyched when times get tough. Managers are the brains of a business. They establish systems, create rules and operating procedures, and put into place incentive programs and the like. Management, however, is about the business, not the people; the people are important as a way of getting the job done.”
Administrators should be curriculum leaders and instructional leaders. As a curriculum leader, they should help teachers create learning opportunities. They should rely on the teachers’ expertise is designing experiences that a filled with opportunities for critical and creative thinking. As instructional leaders, administrators should push teachers to be innovative in their methods, utilize technology as a tool for learning (not as the learning), and create learning situations that push students to expand their understandings of the world.
Until we think of learning as an ongoing process that can’t always be measured, learning will continue to stagnate. Therefore, I argue that by reducing the influence of assessments, scores, and measurement of students, we can allow our educational leaders to lead, not just manage the system.
With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.