The school buildings that echo with the sounds of silence in July and August, except for the occasional summer schools and day care programs, will be alive again next week. As students and teachers gear up for another 180-day journey, so, too, does this writer prepare a documentary and commentary for you to consider along the way.
Welcome back to all in our public schools. May we be uncompromising in our collective efforts to create a true adventusre and a meaningful and attainable curriculum of promise and hope for our young people.
Allow, please, some preliminary reflection on those responsible for establishing the itinerary and sponsoring the educational tour for our nation’s youth.
1. Georgia, Oklahoma and Florida all have universal pre-school programs. Our commonwealth has laws calling for such a program. But typically, our legislators who are so proficient at passing a law fail to financially support it. The pre-schools have proven to offer kids a running start and provide early intervention (a key component) for students who eventually would require remediation, counseling or social services in later grades. It encourages social, emotional and cognitive growth that strengthens the kids’ ability to take full advantage of and fully participate in the school experience. It would equalize opportunity and guarantee a firm foundation for students who come from all income levels, who are of different race and have varied degrees of family support. The pilot programs we’re being offered are simply appetizers for a hunger that requires a full meal (i.e. requisite funding).
3. Can we afford not to penetrate the “me first” and “not my problem” mentality of our teenage school population? There is troubling evidence that today’s high schoolers who are 2-6 years removed from the labor force, parenthood and voting ranks, possess minimal or zero knowledge (or interest) in local, national or world issues and at this moment in time, there are so many crucial concerns affecting world and local stability, security and moral ethics.
The high standards we establish in core academic subjects must be met with equally high expectations and instruction in creating a social conscience and civic responsibility. A curriculum is essential that is driven by the daily news and supported by research, analysis and debate on topics such as energy, health care, the mid-East boiling pot, war on terrorism, legislative corruption, corporate greed, poverty and famine, the continuing lessons of Katrina, China as an economic and vital world force, doping scandal and abuse, guns vs. butter philosophy, the town meeting form of decision-making, etc. Most important is the need to energize and motivate our young people to preserve and use the most precious of our democratic rights – the vote.
If you consider a “needs improvement” in the math MCAS disturbing, consider the future if we “educate” a generation of kids with such a label in their civic/social responsibility I.Q.
4. Education Alert! Our public schools will need one million new teachers in the next five years!
During my career in education, I often sought ways to escape from the job from time to time to maintain my mental health and relax a little. I attended a memorial service this past week for a man who helped me enjoy those pleasurable hours and who was a loyal friend. He was Ed Madigan who recently died at his home in Deland, Florida. I will truly miss Ed and my prayers are with his wife, Carol, and his sons and daughters during this sad time. God Bless You, Ed.
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt