Tonight there will be another town meeting, this the only one in Newark, regarding the upcoming takeover of 6 public schools… All the players were there, and it was brought up that the number one player with the most at stake, was absent…. you.
The challenge was proffered. What do you want your public schools to be?
I had to catch myself… My first reaction was a long tedious list of what I didn’t want them to be… which shortened considerably, boils down to one word: Philadelphia.
So as THE self appointed globally sanctioned prime expert on education across the entire world, knowledgeable of schools from the aborigine Outback, Ghana, China, Russia, Europe, Brazil, to the US… this was an opportune time to define eduction in its most realistic perspective.
Anyone of age, knows as a young parent you have very detailed ideas of how your child is going to be… but then as a grandparent, you throw them all out the window and enjoy the individual spirit and quirks each child possesses… That perspective is endemic to where I am going to take this conversation.
1) All people are different; education strategy must account for that. Anything that defines education to one single formula will work for one single type of human being, and fail for all the others… Guaranteed! Some more so than others. Success depends on bringing each individual person’s talents, instilled in them either by genetics or environment, to the area where they can be most successful and live happy and productive lives… (Assuming the whole principle for living is to be happy and have a productive life… After all: why should anyone purposefully live to endure an unhappy and fruitless life?)
2) People tend to learn what they deem is important and discard the rest. It is how we are wired… Making people learn things that are not important is a waste of time… They’ll forget it, so why invest the time teaching something that is not there in two days, and is never again needed in their lifetimes?
3) Since children are acquiescent, education across the ages has always revolved around what adults think should be instilled to promote the society they envision… Example, people who are bible bangers think we need more religion in our schools because, if everyone thought as did they, they wouldn’t be ostracized by society anymore.. So usually for whatever reason, educational policy has always been about promoting the self-interests of the policy maker. Recently Common Core. Once it was Science. Once it was Creationism. Now it is $$$$$.
4) There is a lot of consensus that everyone should have the ability to read the language they will be using the rest of their life, and to add, subtract, multiply, and divide (specifically in a base-10 system)…. These are fundlemental and I am sure that a statically rounded 100% of all human beings would agree to that.
5) And lastly: it should be a guaranteed right that everyone has the right to learn what ever they want, if they want to avail themselves of the opportunity…. Which means at an early age: exposure to a wide variety; and at a later age, freedom to pursue that area in which they perceive they will be happiest…
And that is it…. From there the discussion boils down into petty arguments, vision, details, and personal whims and attributes. Conservatives want a conservative agenda taught, with no mention of the sins of liberal thinking… Religious nuts want their religion, and only THEIR religion taught to bolster their teachings at home. Business interests want psychological robots to perform tasks on demand with no question. Intellectuals want the smart ones culled and given an robust menu upon which to flourish. Poor people just want someone to keep their kids till they can make it home from work.
So what we need is an educational system that encompasses all of the above…. In other words, is it unrealistic to expect a child of a crack mom, kept by an aunt who works 2 jobs, to achieve standards set for an above average affluent white suburbanite from a family income well over $80,000? Why, yes. It is… In other words, is it unrealistic to expect a child raped by a relative entrusted of its care, to behave as would a child of a wealthy stay-at-home mom who ran things with an iron fist beginning at birth, whose child never learned any other option other than trust implicitly what they were told to do? Why, yes… it is… In other words, is it unrealistic to expect a child who has a 500 word vocabulary upon entering 1st grade to achieve at the same level expected of a child whose parents boast they have read to him over 2000 books before he/she enters the school system? Why, yes… it is…
I am right on the verge of preaching again what schools should not be, which since I said earilier I would not do, I will leave it to you to put that together in your own mind….
But as a final thought, some of us are old enough to remember the public service commercials once ending with: “because a mind is a terrible thing to waste…..”
And that is the essence to me of what our public schools should be….
They should be areas of opportunity…. Where if a child is born of a gifted mind, he won’t be denied opportunity because of the color of his skin, or the economic standing of his parents, or a disability with which he was born….
All people may be created equal, but not all have equal opportunity upon arriving upon public education’s doorstep. The true ideal of public education should be to give ALL those arriving, the opportunity to make their lives better than what it would be, if such schools did not exist.
So, based on the assumption that schools should be areas of opportunity, a lot of crap is immediately discarded and those things that impeding this mission of being an opportunity become readily apparent.
1) Those students denying other students their opportunity to learn, need to be culled.
2) Sports, music, and arts, providing additional opportunities, need to be enhanced, not diminished.
3) Statewide testing should be only a measure of each student’s progress. Not a brick bat to level at teachers, schools, and districts, and poor people in general.
4) We should be happy if all can read, write, and do basic math. But we should definitely offer more for those so inclined to go further.
5) A child’s path should be decided by its parents… If the child has none, then the best experts possible should be there to guide him.
Education should be neither liberal or conservative, but should include elements promoting both. It should be neither religious or atheistic, but should include elements exploring both. It should be neither for rich or poor, but should include opportunities for both….
Public Education should be the place where anyone, no matter what number life has given him, can grow and explore however he is so inclined. No limits. No entry restrictions.
Case in point: there was once a black kid, of single mom, immigrant estranged father, raised by grandparents, who took full advantage of all public education’s opportunities… He is now the President of the United States of America….
Alas, if we could have only given Republicans as equal of an education.