Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fixing the Public Schools

Here's the smartest thing I've ever heard anyone say about our public schools: "People say we need to fix the schools. They're wrong. We need to fix the public."

Two weeks ago, my wife and I attended her 50 year reunion of the class of 1963 in a tiny town on the eastern edge of Iowa. Half a century ago, many of the kids who came into town for high school had been schooled for their first eight years in rural one-room buildings with one teacher who taught all eight grades in a communal classroom. I listened while one man recalled the experience. "Starting in 1st grade, we could hear the lessons that the teacher was giving to her 8th grade students, and that same process was repeated every year until we, ourselves, were the 8th grade students. By that time, we had heard the curriculum seven times before. There was no way we could have failed to learn it."

Another reunion attendee... a woman... recalled that her rural school, which averaged 20 to 25 students total each year during the eight years she was there, contained a mix of English, Irish, Swedes, Germans, and one black boy. The King's English was the only language spoken or taught.

And one last thing... during the 12 years of school (1951 - 1963) preceding my wife's graduation, the United States of America was well on its way to achieving eventual manned flights to the moon because our nation had half of all the industry in the world, and half of the world's total GDP to finance research and production. And we had the best education system on earth.

Basically, we were, then, where China is now.

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