1. The schools were to blame for letting the Russians get into space first.To Gerald's list I will add the 10th and it is the biggy. Despite all the wonderful heart felt teachers in the world, their passions for their kids and their diligent lifelong application of heart and soul to their work, public education was never really about education in the first place, but about socialization of the immigrant masses who posed a threat to the industrial economy. Yes, we wanted them to read. Yes we wanted them to write and add, subtract and divide, but most of all, we wanted them to be orderly and complaisant. So we have students sit still. We ask classrooms to be quiet and the teachers are judged by both peers and administration on the quiet they sustain rather than the excitement they engender. We have students fill out worksheets and answer multiple choice questions. Those who don't are subject to discipline. Teachers have classrooms with too many students to become fully engaged with the learning needs of each individual.
2. Schools alone can close the achievement gap.
3. Money doesn't matter.
4. The United States is losing its competitive edge.
5. The U. S. has a shortage of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.
6. Merit pay for teachers will improve performance.
7. The fastest growing jobs are all high-tech and require postsecondary education.
8. Test scores are related to economic competitiveness.
9. Education itself produces jobs.
And yes, in case you ask, Independent schools like Clear Spring are also involved in socialization as well as education. We do interpersonal problem solving and conflict resolution in which the children themselves learn to be peacemakers with each other. Yes, we work on being orderly and respectful, in the classroom, on the playground and in the community. In fact, when the kids travel or go camping, adults are always drawn to comment. As one park ranger told me during a camping trip, "This is the most orderly and inquisitive group of kids I've ever seen!" But we pretend public education is about education while its structure diminishes the students, forcing them to tow the line, and damaging teachers and students alike. Reducing class sizes by at least 50% would be a good starting point. Allowing teachers time to really attend to the socialization needs of each child would be both a revolution in American education and one in society as well.
And so, is this about the hands? Am I boring you or leading you astray? I hope we are walking hand in hand. It is a slippery slope, covered in wet leaves, but I think I do know the way to the top.