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Jan-08-2008 15:34printcomments

Op Ed: Education System Damaged
By What We DON`T Do
Far More Than What We DO

Historically, blocking by neocon opposition responsible for defaults.

Kids in class
Photo courtesy: University of Michigan

(BEND, Ore.) - Anyone experiencing our educational system first-hand, then looking back at that life-shaping experience later, from a more mature and ongoing continuance of learning, now is forced to a much fuller set of understandings of how those first learning years could have been made much more productive with only minor changes.

That original experience will vary widely; but invariably it will contain basic components forced into formulation of the system by precisely what the early pioneers intended:

Consolidation of all possible efforts, leading to essentially-demanded conformities:

1. Common school experience for all concerned, as a principle.

2. Emphasis on basic equalities in experience and opportunities.

3. Strong cultural conformities including sharing-skills and rationalized learning opportunities.

4. A nationalized curriculum designed, designated and controlled by state powers of domain, coordinated and partially supported by national effort established by Congress.

That much was forced on our original educational leadership by the clear demands they faced in a rapidly-growing national effort, begun within weeks of the American Revolution culminating in statehood.

Those same principles stand us in good stead now in the 21st Century where education is hampered and harassed by continuing demands of some few who deny and wish to defeat these well-tested precepts for developing the education essential for democratic continuance and growth.

WHY does continuing opposition - since the very earliest days of the then-brand/new and truly revolutionary "democratic republic" - still fight the inevitabilities demanded in that governance-system?

Education is NOT "the only one" - but it is among the most vulnerable.

For precisely the same reasons such opposition - varying only in political name-and-terminology, began its battles against the wit, wisdom and will of the people and it has continued ever since.

The true fear that they should have - the most ferocious and fast-retaliating action, is a population of poorly educated citizens in today's competitive world.

The inevitable clear understanding that must be reached is that education is truly demanded for democracy, and education is surely the first essential for every citizen, now more than ever.

People are learning that a changing world and a changing environment now force us to face up to what it really takes in dollar costs to prepare everyone for precisely what a democratic republic must have, from its maturing and participating citizens.

Those citizen attributes are much easier identified and described than they are to actually achieve. It comes down to an individual willingness to assume and practice strongly democratic personal responsibilities, while strengthening elected representatives who are capable, competent, and committed to building those government actions demanded for the commonweal.

Every learner is an independent person with individual and very human characteristics and needs. Today that is more broadly recognized than ever, while we neglect its implications and our responsibilities, crowding nearly every classroom far beyond practical limits on any realistic learning. Today we see parties caviling at each other constantly over "how much it costs" to really have better education for all our kids.

We need to "shut up and put up"; not only with dollars to create what we used to have some decades ago in teacher/student ratio; but also in absolutely universal usage of ALL the technological tools and all the teaching techniques, approaches and facilitating organization we now know.

Literally, again, we DO KNOW from centuries of exploring the teaching arts and the practical ways-to-work, built from everyday practices with-learners/hands-on, by skilled and dedicated teachers.

We need to "listen up and put up" this time, to those who have dedicated life and possible personal economic gains (and community status) to their preference of working with the young-and-"teachable", for the very great satisfactions enjoyed by our illustrious band of dedicated classroom teachers.

They would NOT be anywhere else by choice and that professional fact alone should assure that we "listen up" - very carefully, indeed with concentrated attention, so that we can then "put up" precisely and provocatively what it is they have been telling us all this time.

Most of all, give us time and help to really TEACH every child, with our best understandings of what ‘that one’ needs NOW and will need SOON - before we go on to another, and another, and another.

Give us selected, specialized teaching materials; give us skilled special supervisors to help us understand ALL the kids; give us time to prepare and time to test progress and time to prepare-AGAIN; and time to simply sit-with and listen-to those eagerly-learning kids.

Give us skilled and insightful school nurses, who can work with hungry kids and then with the families involved;, and with social workers who know where to go and what to do to get food on the table and help for struggling mothers, alone with troubles and traumas, but with no one left to help.

Give us a local School Board with discerning and sensitive members dedicated, first and foremost and all of their term, to the children, then the schools, and then the parents, and finally to protecting and preserving all those very human relationships constantly at stake - and at war too much of the time in every school situation.

Most American know in their very guts that it is NOT the schools that are now at fault. Most know and are coming to appreciate the reality that our society has been caught short-changing and nearly-abandoning the most vulnerable, needy-and-demanding among us all: our own children.

Most see and understand only too well that it has never really been a question of money - always too much, as the neocons insist.

Most now know, all too painfully from brothers and sisters and others gone, and from others at risk, with all that puts at stake, that the war-dollars we waste can and should, NOW be put to better uses right here in our own back yards... starting with kids preparing for kindergarten, with loving families strengthened and preserved by solid non-neocon economics minus that lying trickle-down theory that has proven itself so wildly theoretical, over and over again.

That’s where we really are on education.

Big-bite generalization is fun-and-games; it can even provide some solid dialog, given a practicing teacher facing reality with kids every day, and forced to get ready for the next day.

But reality is reality, and dollars-wasted on war sold to all by lying neocon propaganda, willfully initiated and too-widely accepted, will never again teach anybody anything.

Of that you can be sure.

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Henry Ruark January 9, 2008 2:28 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Flat fact of reality from Harper's Magazine Index today: "Number of states where a majority of public school students were poor enough to qualify for subsidized lunches in 1989: 1. Number today: 14." That speaks plainly of the huge disparity of growing inequalities in the nation, as well as of huge further burdens on the school system.

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