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Op Ed: Your Educational System Attacked: What to Do NowHenry Clay Ruark Salem-News.com
Part One - Societal, Economic Changes Demand Citizen Action.
(SEASIDE, Ore.) - Our prescient Founding Fathers knew well the great role of education in forming and strengthening --and in preserving our world-famed “democratic experiment” - as so many have called it.
Pragmatic and philosophical considerations together guided them in their establishment of a common school intended to guarantee parallel practical learning for all involved --and to provide firm values and understandings required of all citizens in our new democracy.
That was one of the most important lessons well learned from their recorded deep exploration of world famed philosophies as they prepared for our American Revolution. (See Federalist Papers!)
But they understood that relentless “progress” over time, already-apparent territorial demands, and inevitable exigencies of our newly-invented, and rapidly-developing democratic governance must force and shape many ongoing changes in any educational system they could contrive then.
That has surely happened.
Both governance and citizen responsibilities have changed drastically, rapidly, and sometimes even radically --to meet the changing demands of an expanding, ambitious, entrepreneurial -- and partially/democratic-- society.
That’s why and where we earned that longfamed concept of “American exceptionalism”. That’s how and where we built tested-and-proven American values, cherished, strongly protected and still preserved as the 21st Century arrives.
That historical sequence can and must continue to guide us as we now, again further develop what has been widely termed “the primary democratic system”, to provide the surest way to complete their dream of true democracy for millions of new Americans. How very-right and intriguingly inventive our famed Founders have proven with educational progress in our nation occurring ever since!
Despite inevitable errors, flaws, failed and futile choices and a variety of other now well-outmoded components, that system has produced the world’s most powerful and still-potent “arsenal for democracy” If we will but use the effective weapons it can provide, that system will stand us in strong stead for what we must now have, as we reform, restructure, strengthen, extend and refund what has worked so well for 250 years, already. now our attention is demanded -- again -- to protect, preserve and extend our hard-won democracy.
In the 21st Century that system no longer will suffice for us without massive modification in content and its delivery. Cultural, economic, social and many psychological and cognitive progressive steps make that completely clear for most rational, reasonable citizens.
That demands fundamental change in curriculum, in delivery of learning media, in system pattern and every step in management, and in teaching methods. In turn, that requires reconsideration of pragmatic costing and its funding, to drive all other considerations. What is “curriculum’?
Wikipedia is easily accessed --used here for that very reason -- and tells us: “All the learning which is planned and guided by the school, whether it is carried on in groups or individually, inside or outside the school.”
Please note that phrase “or individually, inside or outside the school.” Note also that beginning-word “ALL”
Those are key to the future of our whole system. (There are four major professional approaches to formulating a “course of study”; check for yourselves in Wikipedia, and be informed for any further cogitation. Until/unless you’ve worked through fundamental understandings of “curriculum” you remain uninformed.) Indeed, “the system” as we know it now is most indubitably under attack --not only by inevitable “progress”, but also by determined and often malign forces-- clearly seeking private-gain objectives.
That’s why it has been made into a political football for the most impure of political/pandering propositions --driven by the brute base-motives of Monies and Racism: “Monies” to minimize a major component of taxcosts, fueling the fires of futile reaction vs progress; and “Monies” as product-profit for potently popular but ineffective, outmoded learning media, classroom methods, and full-system control.
Racism continues to play a major role in shaping and distorting what any nation must provide for ALL of its citizens, to guide their understandings and decisions. THAT can be achieved ONLY via full, open, honest, pragmatic and highly effective introduction to culture and values demanded for citizen responsibilities.
The best --perhaps the ONLY !-- effective method is to provid potent educational impacts long-demanded by those so long separated and thus made second-rate citizens. Our American history and current city-and-region culture and its consequences show us clearly that we must provide potent rapid remediation for patent and still-powerful past neglect --for our national security and as
The irreplaceable component for democracy. Inevitably, the complexities of curriculum process itself--and of its inescapable pragmatic components, including system management and instructional method-- are so vulnerable to misunderstanding, misinterpretation and manipulation for private purposes that the whole system has long ago become a political football.
What is taught is shaped by HOW it is taught. That we know-for-sure by decades of research not only in educational/system, but also in cognitive process and in large-scale studies of learning process, at every level and for a wide variety of purposes and situations.
Most wishing to attack the system ignore entirely what can be learned easily, rapidly, effectively by some simple Googling on the Internet, these days... yet have you noticed the massive growth of malign and misleading political pander --usually “anonymous”-- in all comments following education coverage, in both ‘the media” and sources such as this one?
Then there’s easy-to-spot massive/dollar corporate propaganda efforts --via owned/media, “think-tanks”, and “independent” foundations; well-reported, explored and revealed decades ago and continuing today.
That denigrating effort began with Far Right-family billionaire support early-on, to oppose the New Deal and its first fundamental reform-driven progressive steps. Their prime focus, continued ever since inception, has been to preserve, strengthen and extend Far Right influence meant to shape, then control, and finally to apply in-depth and massively to radically alter our long valued American freedoms and liberties.
Those families, instigating what has become the foundation for attack on our educational system, meant to shape, control --and manipulate-- what was taught and how it was presented, in any way they could then contrive, to protect, preserve and strengthen their own private interests --primarily small-governance, minimumtax/ connected.
Education has since then become a huge market, distinguished by massive impact one or several large states, by major purchases of textbooks and learning media, will unfailingly have on what is taught and HOW it is then presented. (See recent S-N reports.) “Success” invading even a part of that market -- continuously the target of Right-wing political cabals-- has already had remarkable impact on curriculum: The clear/clean/professional content/choices for what is to be taught and learned.
Those same malign continuing efforts have already been applied to the process thereof in building the curriculum required within our educational system --as most recent news and professional reports have made only too clear, in a number of states, including Oregon. Not only the process but the fundamental tools for teaching have been targeted --and still are! Our educational system includes “local school boards” to shape and guide individual-area schools, under supervision of state educational control.
That provides electoral responsibility for needed area-adaptation --but invariably makes “the system” highly vulnerable to propaganda-- as we have seen only too strongly demonstrated recently at every level.
Even more dangerous is “localized-comment” guided by continuing Far Right political propaganda, known to be part of the massive think-tank and foundation” cabal now well documented in American educational history. That often-encountered situation is more/damaging since concealed and sometimes protected by abuse of First Amendment “rights” requiring citizen responsibilities not generally recognized.
Ongoing communications research has long shown convincingly that many local/level “pronouncers” -- knowingly perverted-or-not by that propaganda-- have ended up acting as political panderers rather than from clear understanding of education as complex process. Their use is even suggested in certain Far Right most-revealing documents surfaced over the decades.
If these “local pronouncers” did understand the reality, they would also understand why “the system” - -flawed as it may be-- must never be knowingly subjected to “influence”.
But what they seek is the simplistic satisfaction of even-passing public attention. Whether-or-not knowingly pronounced publicly as propaganda effort or simply from determined ignorance of obvious facts controlling education in each state, that level and kind of negative action is one of the major factors manufacturing false public understanding of a famed, effective and still-strong system.
The real remedies for growing fault --and some flat-failures-- are also now become radically obvious, too, as many strong supporters of “the system” seek to understand its flaws and failures. Informed and sensitive exploration and its resulting analysis and definition of problems-found is now and has always been a potent strength of our educational system --as demonstrated by astounding changes and worldwide/acclaimed achievements over many decades. (See Part Two forthcoming)
We must understand “from whence we’ve come” in that long-successful system to guide any possible rational, reasonable changes now essential --if we are to continue building those same true American values so desired and sought by our Founders, proven successful over 250 years.
The “common school” played its demanded role near-perfectly in our earliest years, providing a solid, sensible, sensitive base for both our economic and social beginnings.
That school plan and its programs provided precisely the common experiences in cooperation, economic-burden and work-sharing, and personal growth and development demanded by the rigors surrounding all settlers. What was also well-provided --not always well recognized-- was the common foundation of skills and understandings Americans had to have to become strong, new citizens--with increasing demands for new and different responsibilities-- in a newly-founded and unique nation.
There are solid roots, still flourishing to strengthen us all, world-recognized as “American exceptionalism”, a unique blend of individual characteristics inextricably connected with liberty and equality, making possible a range of pragmative, progressive entrepreneurial and personal opportunity.
Those are the values “the common school” was intended to convey; they are still most extremely useful in this new Century --which is why we strive to build them into the new educational needs we know we need.
Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria, in his book The Post-American World, refers to a "Post-American world" that, he says, "is not about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else."
Those familiar with rapidly changing worldwide conditions shaping radical developments internationally, and thus every aspect of world society, understand that imperative --as inevitable as the massive fallout of globalization, already affecting every American life.
That puts in a nutshell one of the major driving forces which MUST NOW motivate our reform and the renaissance of our American system of education: From kindergarten, through a newly-organized “graded school” and differentiated “high school”; all the way to more advanced variety of learning opportunities via a strengthened and extended “community college” level; and for those well-qualified for further learning. a changing/evolving/growing/expanding “graduate level” at rational, reasonable, assisted costs. (See Part Three forthcoming.)
At 21, Henry Clay Ruark was Aroostook Editor for the Bangor, Maine DAILY NEWS, covering the upper 1/4 of the state. In the ‘40s, he was Staff Correspondent, then New England Wires Editor at United Press-Boston; later Editor for the Burlington, Vermont 3-daily group owned by Wm. Loeb, later notorious at Manchester, New Hampshire UNION LEADER for attacks on Democratic Presidential candidates.
Hank returned to Oregon to complete M. Ed. degree at OSU, went on to Indiana University for Ed.D. (abd) and special other course-work; was selected as first Information Director for NAVA in Washington, D.C.; helped write sections of NDEA, first Act to supply math, science, foreign language consultants to state depts. of education; joined Oregon Dept. of Education, where he served as NDEA administrator/Learning Media Consultant for ten years.
He joined Dr. Amo DeBernardis at PCC, helping establish, extend programs, facilities, Oregon/national public relations; moved to Chicago as Editor/Publisher of oldest educational-AV journal, reformed as AV GUIDE Magazine; then established and operated Learning Media Associates as general communications consultant group. Due to wife’s illness, he returned to Oregon in 1981, semi-retired, and has continued writing intermittently ever since, joining S-N in 2004. His Op Eds now total over 560 written since then.
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