The educational product
WASB chief John Ashley promotes the value of public education.
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IB: How has teaching changed over the years?
Ashley: The saying is it’s no longer the sage on the stage, it’s the guide on the side. Kids today love their [electronic] devices and learn that way. Classrooms and teachers are more project-oriented and collaborative. I am concerned that with social media and the internet we are creating a generation of people who just regurgitate the thoughts of someone who agrees 100% with them. Students have to recognize that there are differences of opinions, and just because something is on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. We need an arbiter to help them determine what’s real.
IB: What about school safety?
Ashley: WASB is extra vigilant that our schools have good security plans in place. We also watch bullying, which unfortunately occurs 24/7 through social media. We have to help this generation understand how not to use technology to mistreat others.
IB: The state is looking into ways to expand broadband. How does that impact educational opportunities?
Ashley: This issue keeps me up at night. In our rural districts, service can be intermittent or expensive. Telecoms may not see a lot of return on their investment, but the situation leaves many of our rural districts at a disadvantage and causes a huge divide in our urban communities, as well.
IB: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Ashley: Unpredictability in terms of funding allocations every year. We also don’t know what the federal government will do on certain issues — transgender students, for example — so we’re constantly caught in a world where we have no control.
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