Public education is one of the foundations of our democracy. It is, arguably, the only equalizing force in an otherwise unequal system. Over the years I have seen many fads and trends come and go. Over these last few years, however, I have become increasingly alarmed over what appears to be an attempt to destroy the public school system across the nation by people from both political parties. It started with President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind, a mandate without funding and a pretty way to say, “No child left untested.” President Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition for federal education funds has only intensified the testing. We have public-funded vouchers for students to spend at little-regulated or unregulated private schools, and we have publicly funded charter schools, some of which are run by for-profit companies making a great deal of money from the enterprise. More recently we have seen the rise of the Common Core State Standards, which is probably a good concept but has been badly implemented.
People ask me from time to time what I think of the state of public education. I tell them we desperately need educational reform. What children need is not to be taught how to pass endless tests. They need to be taught problem solving, creativity and, most of all, a love of learning. We must give them the tools they need to learn. We are teaching children, today, for a world we cannot foresee. What we need is a new, child centered, not profit driven, education agenda.
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