Thursday, July 31, 2014

Last few thoughts on - A New Day

This may close the series of responses to "conservative" thoughts on what they would have us all do to make - A New Day, happen.  I regret to say that I have not seen their opponents offer similar thoughts. As I rapidly approach my 85th birthday, it is with a tear in my eye as I watch so many apparently letting time - and the opportunities, pass away.  Enough of that for now(more to come), let's listen to Wendy Kopp, Founder and Chairperson of Teach for America and CEO of "Teach for All".

"When comparing the American education system with those of other developed countries, the best we can say is that ours performs about average.

In part, our poor standing is due to the enormous and unforgivable opportunity gap between the most marginalized children and their privileged peers.  But even in our top performing State - Massachusetts, high school graduates are on an average at least two years behind their peers among the world's top performers.

Ensuring America's strength and prosperity will require our making a serious commitment to educating our children.  It will mean embracing higher standards that demand critical thinking, just as the other countries have.   It will mean engaging in what I have come to call the Long Game - the long term, all-out effort to build the capacity within and outside schools to ensure all students meet these standards.

For years, we have been looking for a quick educational fix - giving parents vouchers, for instance, or supplying students with computers.  But, if we have learned anything, it is that there is no one silver bullet solution.  Vouchers work only if parents have a large number of high-quality alternatives to choose from, and technology is powerful only when used in the service of classrooms and schools with clear missions, strong cultures and capable faculty - not as a replacement for them.

Transforming American education is going to take massive investments over many years, investments not only of dollars, but also of our mots valuable resource: the time and energies of our most promising, diverse leaders.  It is slow and deep work because it requires change from millions of teachers and administrators, parents, policy makers and civic leaders.  Encouraging the Long Game is the only way to realize the rest of our aspirations."

After reading Ms. Kopp's estimations, I have only one primary thought.  Thank God she has moved to the private sector and should not have access to public monies

Why do I say this?  Let me take you back to 1935 and a one room school house in Brockway township, St. Clair county, Michigan and introduce you to Mina Mosher Armstrong, my first grade teacher whose basic approach to education led me to succeed in the eight years of grammar school as we knew it to be in those days.  Her encouragement would continue to propel me on to graduate from Yale High School, seven years of service to our nation as part of the U.S. Air Force and then, graduation with a BBA Degree in Business from what is now known as Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA.

At no time in the years I invested in that education was I ever known to be a scholar, nor was I ever challenged to be more than just a four year college graduate, by my family, my superiors in the service, except for one Professor who encouraged me to become an Accountant, a thought that made me end any further thoughts of education, per se.

I did become an employment counselor and dealt with more poorly prepared job applicants than I care to recall.  I spent years wondering why our educational systems did such an inadequate job of making certain their graduates were adequately prepared for the multitude of opportunities available to them in the most dynamic economy ever known by mankind.

And as I seriously consider the problem, I think back to Mina Mosher Armstrong.

I don't think she ever went to college - she learned how to motivate people merely by relating their struggles to the one she had to overcome to become a teacher.  More often that not, her wages were paid by the produce grown in the neighboring garden and fields and I still recall helping to slaughter the young calf my grandfather had prepared for my teacher and her family.

Therein is the secret to returning education back to where it once was, when the students did not have so many diversions.  Oh, we had ours.  I got out of bed at 5:30 AM every morning and went to bed at 10 PM, tired.  We didn't have the diversions, but we learned the value of sweat equity.

Every one in my family, my grandparent's families, graduated from high school and I am the only one to ever see the inside of a jail cell.  In fact, even that experience added to my own education.

You can listen to Ms. Kopp and the legions of highly paid advisers available to the local school if you wish to continue - failing our youngsters, if that is your desire.  My suggestion would requite examining what I have suggested - learning to take every day as an opportunity to do more or to do better.  Stop wasting time, talking about the problem; invest you efforts in practical ideas on how to resolve them.

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