Friday, September 29, 2006

Private and public schools...Their legacy in education...

American President Woodrow Wilson, when president of Princeton University, said the following to the New York City School Teachers Association in 1909: "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks."

While few today would buy into such an elitist view of American society, the core of the system of education that arose from such thinking is with us today.

I remember when my mother, a kindergarten teacher would come home from school, surprised and frustrated by the amount of anger and distrust directed by the parents of the children in her classroom toward school. Young fathers would come into her classroom still carrying the load of anger from their own school experiences, and it was my mother's job to win them over, with assurances that their children would be treated with love and respect.

The history of American education is clouded and confused. One the one hand, you have teachers, administrators and parents who have worked hard to lift the level of education to meet its promise. On the other hand, the underlying purposes of those who created the American system of education in the first place, were sinister in light of the commonly held educational values of today.

So the question becomes, how do we transform American education while utilizing the vast long-term commitment and dedication of American teachers? Ron Hansen a professor of teacher education at the University of Western Ontario in Canada has proposed a "diplomatic revolution" in education. While there are many in our country that believe that a revolution is called for and some see no need for diplomacy, the idea of a "diplomatic revolution" is that there are millions of teachers, administrators and parents working each day to make education better in America. Their expertise and commitment is needed; their continuing dedication is required. But efforts made to shore up a system rotten at its core are not enough. Revolution demands that the core, the vision and purpose of education be examined, and built anew.

In the time of Woodrow Wilson, public and private education were opposed parts of a single vision, one controlling the masses, the other preparing the masters for control. It was a dark partnership. Today, there are other things afoot…potentials for partnerships bringing education of all children into greater light. Tomorrow I want to spend a few minutes telling about Clear Spring School.

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