Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mr. Jefferson, meet Mr. Duncan

I grew up in public schools--I lasted less than a year in parochial school, and bailed out a week before my 7th birthday (another story for another day). I went to public college, and public medical school.

My kids went through public school.

I now work in a public school right here in my town of Bloomfield.

I love the concept of public schools. I would like to point out, however, that "public" means just that, and that "education" does not necessarily mean developing the capacity to debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

I'm old-fashioned, and despite the recent twist towards corporatization of all things civil, some of us still hold Thomas Jefferson in high regard.

He said:

Of all the views of this law [for public education], none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe as they are the ultimate guardians of their own liberty.

And this:

The general objects [of a bill to diffuse knowledge more generally through the mass of the people] are to provide an education adapted to the years, to the capacity, and the condition of every one, and directed to their freedom and happiness.

And this

This [bill] on education would [raise] the mass of the people to the high ground of moral respectability necessary to their own safety and to orderly government, and would [complete] the great object of qualifying them to secure the veritable aristoi for the trusts of government, to the exclusion of the pseudalists... I have great hope that some patriotic spirit will... call it up and make it the keystone of the arch of our government.

And this:

The less wealthy people,... by the bill for a general education, would be qualified to understand their rights, to maintain them, and to exercise with intelligence their parts in self-government; and all this would be effected without the violation of a single natural right of any one individual citizen.

The reason we educate children is to make the effective citizens, and to help promote their pursuit of happiness. Or so I thought.

Mr. Obama gets a lot of things, and he's bright. I worry, though, that he might not get public education.

In the next few years, the decisions we make about how to educate our children will shape our future for generations to come. And the results aren't just about test scores or statistics, but about whether our children are developing the skills they need to compete with any worker in the world for any job.

From his own website,
Please say it ain't so, Mr. President.

Mr. Obama's choice for the new Secretary of Education does not bode well. Mr. Duncan has never taught in a public school classroom. Mr. Duncan has a propensity to twist his district's statistics. I fear Mr. Duncan (and his boss) do not get public education.

Mr. President, come a li'l closer.
That's it--lean in a little more.

Pssstt....The Boston Tea Party was all about sticking it to corporations.
It is not the government's charge to raise our children to be fit to work for the East India Tea Company.

Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Bush both had a legacy of blue bucks and bad personal judgment before their commitment to inflict the NCLB Act on our children. Alas, they both lack the benefits of a truly public education.

Punahou School, Yale, Harvard, Philips Andover Academy--this is not the world of public schooling.

Punahou, Obama's high school, now costs $16,675 a year.

The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Arne Duncan's alma mater, now costs $21,480 a year.

Yeah, I know, Jefferson studied under Reverend James Maury, and he didn't exactly rise from hoi polloi. But he knew the value of an education, and even more important, he knew the value of public education.

Mr. President, come on down and meet your πολλοί--I'll show you how to find a clam, how to temporarily patch a roof (something I was doing just a few hours ago, big fun in January), till a garden, change a flat, snake a blocked sewer pipe, knead dough, and all kinds of other things that we can do with our public education, at least until our public education became a conduit for corporate clones.

This is our country. We want it back.

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