Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Why are we still hundreds of years behind in education?

The Chinese, during the time of Chu Hsi in 1200, were debating "teaching to the test." We are only now having this debate in America. This means we are 800 years behind the Chinese in the theory and practice of education.

When Horace Mann was promoting public education about 1840, he was promoting the Prussian education system. We are only now close to achieving the key elements of what the Germans had 200 years ago. We still do not have a national curriculum and we are still working to get qualified teachers in the classrooms.

How can it be that America is 800 years behind the Chinese and 200 years behind the Germans? Horace Mann could see we needed to emulate the Germans almost 200 years ago, but America did not completely embrace his vision.

If you have ever taught in the classroom, you would have met parents who truly did not care about education. Many parents do not really believe in it. That is a failing in America.

American leaders -- political leaders, leaders in education, and community leaders -- have never managed to get America to truly embrace education. The real reason children fail the TAKS test in Texas is that their parents do not care, and our leaders have not persuaded them to care.

Changing tests will not fix the problem of failing schools, but this is what the Texas state legislature is doing. This is proof that our leaders are still failing to persuade parents.

Will they still be failing a hundred years from now? Will they ever get it right? I do not think they will ever get it right until we the people provide the leadership our politicians cannot provide.

I encourage you to get involved!


Sunday, June 10, 2007

America, Where is Our Plutarch, Our Seneca?

Seneca the Younger was a very wealthy citizen of ancient Rome known as much for his writings in philosophy and drama as his political career. He moved in the highest circles in Rome and manifested the highest achievements of a well educated man in his writings.

Since the days of our founding fathers, where is there an American Seneca? We have plenty of wealthy people. The richest people go the the most famous schools, but where is the evidence of their successful education? Where is there a rich man since our American Revolution who has manifested a great mind by writing anything of value?

Plutarch was a wealthy man in ancient Greece and one of the greatest minds in Western Civilization. Where is our Plutarch? With all the science and wealth at our disposal, why have we never had a rich American with a superior mind? The wealthy have access to our most famous schools, but they amount to nothing.

Is there something wrong with our rich that they are only good at making money? Is there something wrong with Harvard, Yale, and the rest of the Ivy League that the education they provide seems to make no positive impression on the wealthy?

Or is there something wrong with American culture that cannot see any merit beyond wealth?

I say it is time to demand better performance from the wealthy people that run America. They take over our politics with their money and give us shamelessly incompenent leaders, but we do not have to continue going down this road of failure.

We can turn off our TVs during the elections and ignore the political advertisements.

We can demand competence in our leaders.

And most importantly, we can better educate our children so we might yet have a Seneca or a Plutarch in America.