Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Educational wisdom from Jefferson
In scanning and trying to get some organization to a stack of my photographs, I came across the one above. Some years ago, I had photographed it in a small, historic museum in Kaycee Wyoming, (real cowboy country, hometown of Chris LeDoux, not far from where the Wild Bunch had their Hole in the Wall hideout). At the time, I was taken with the words. I still am today.
If you find it difficult to read, click on it to enlarge it. If it's still not clear or you don't get images, it says: "I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education." Thomas Jefferson.
For those today who are convinced public schools are no longer important, who don't trust the people, and yet want to take from them the educational system that has helped make this country what it has been, for those who don't think education was something our government originally saw as important, please reread the above.
In the elections about to be held there is one party in this country who believes in less taxes and favors vouchers that would benefit private religious schools at the expense of the public system. These people generally call themselves Republicans.
If you are one who values the public school system, who wants it made stronger, not weaker, you need to carefully look at which party will get you where Thomas Jefferson said we need to go.
I don't disagree that some liberals have made a mockery of the public education system by trying to mandate their moral agenda and filling the hours up with that instead of the teaching of basics-- some conservatives would do the same thing today-- different agenda, of course.
Some months back, I read Mary Lou's blog (linked to the side as Life after Nexcom) with a test showing what an eighth grade education used to mean when my parents would have been children. It was mind boggling. In the first eight years, students used to be taught what they are lucky now to get as freshmen in college.Why is this happening? Is it the fault of the public schools or is it our culture, the expectations of our children to be constantly entertained, and the need for teachers to play nursemaids?
Back when I was in school (the dark ages), teachers taught morality by example and classroom expectations. Class time was for reading, writing, science, geography, mathematics, history and if you were going onto college more of them all. Still not bad for bedrock criteria. In a nation where we see things so differently in terms of morality, I believe it's enough if we succeed in teaching not to shoot or beat each other up and no sex in the halls. Given the way a lot of parents don't seem to teach such things at home, that will stir up enough parental angst.
I believe strongly in the public education system in this country. It's very frustrating to see those, who themselves benefited from it, but today would destroy it if they could. We need to support teachers, work toward improved methods of teaching, encourage schools to hold the line on real values like not cheating, solving problems without violence, treating others with respect. Don't destroy the system that got us to where we have been.
Bush started a program that he milked for much publicity called No Child Left Behind. I guess it's definitely served to benefit his brother Neil, who according to the Kos has made a tidy profit from it (this is the same Bush who was involved in the savings and loan scandals). Just in case you think Kos is prejudiced-- No Bush left behind from Business Week . This is all so typical of the Bush administration who talk one way and do another.
Americans need to stay alert because our country is being sold out for the almighty dollar by those who claim to have high standards but in reality only value the buck. They are not only stripping our environment but our educational system of tax resources, demanding tests that accomplish nothing; and if they have their way a system of vouchers to take my tax dollars from public education and hand it over to private schools who may be teaching things that are contradictory to everything I would believe are part of being an educated and informed citizen.
If there are problems, the solution is fixing the system, not breaking it.
(Oh and one more thing, call me an old fogy, I now favor simple uniforms for school kids. This should not be a federal issue but rather local, but it just makes sense to me given some parents let their youngsters head to school with everything showing; and then wonder why the students can't keep their minds on their studies. I didn't used to think uniforms were good-- back when parents had standards that cooperated with the school systems, back when kids had to wear neat, clean and properly covering clothing to school-- back in the dark ages (and there was no more money then than there is today). Children need to understand when they head to school, it's not primarily about socializing but it is going to their job. They are there to learn. Maybe it takes uniforms to impress this on them.)