First impressions are everything as the saying goes, and my first impressions of the 18th Annual Model Schools Conference put on each year by Dr. Willard Daggett’s International Center for Leadership in Education, have two facets. Facet number one is that the “Model Schools Conference” is all about the glitter and glamour with little substance. The opening keynote speech with its flashing spinning lights and sound effects served its purpose of building up to the audience to Dr. Willard Daggett’s opening keynote speech. Once that speech is underway, Daggett continued with the same diatribe he has been making since I first heard him in 1992. “Schools need to change.” Message is the same. What has changed is the expensive lighting, cameras, and glitzy stage effects. What is really sad and disappointing is that a number of schools pay small fortunes in tight budget years to attend these extravaganzas and what they get in return is a old Daggett message dressed up in new technological rhinestones and one big massive sales pitch for other services offered by his organization and a few his selected vendors who offer educational services. I wonder how much they paid Daggett’s organization to be a part of this show of lights and mirrors? I realize that this is entirely my speculation, but I almost felt like I was attending that “Saying Yes” convention that Jim Carrey’s character was attending in the movie “Yes Man.” I just kept waiting to see Willard Daggett take off his shoes and run barefoot down the aisle and confront one of the audience unbelievers of his solutions for curing education.
The other facet of my impressions of this entertainment extravaganza by Willard Daggett’s organization is all the talk about 21st century education. In his keynote, Ray McNulty made the comment about how many classrooms today are museums and that little has changed in today’s schools. Willard Daggett continued with the same message even emphasizing the need to move to electronic textbooks and devices of the 21st century. All this rhetoric is correct and hard to argue with, but then there was just one element of hypocrisy that made it hard for me to hear this message: there was NO WIRELESS ACCESS ANYWHERE IN THE CONVENTION HALL. My question is this: how can a conference that boasts all this stuff about 21st century teaching and learning, have a valid message without providing its attendees with one of the pre-requisites of the 21st century, wireless access? Was it too expensive to provide those in attendance this access? Or, was the plan to work with Marriott Hotels to provide that wireless access for a charge so that even more money could be made?
You know, perhaps I gripe to much. And yes, I might have let a little disappointment like the lack of wireless access poison my views of the whole conference, but I know from my years working in retail services, the little things sometimes do matter. This little thing combined with all the over emphasis on glamour and glitz only makes me wonder if the Model Schools Conference is all about showmanship or substance.