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Guiding Principles for a More Enlightened US Education Policy


Guiding Principles for a More Enlightened US Education Policy

Michael V. McGill

Congress and the White House are doing the porcupine dance as they try to reauthorize the education law called No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Some of the disagreements are old: Should the federal government have more or less control over schooling? Some are newer: Must every child in grades 3-8 take federally mandated standardized tests every year?

Either way, however, the policy response from Washington and in statehouses continues to focus largely on silver-bullet strategies that lack a foundation in research and have fallen markedly short of their goals.


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One of these is not like the others,

Principled , Enlightened , USA


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At first the article seemed quite long. Then I realized that rather than reading a menu for, say, a seven course meal, I was reading something more along the lines of a dietary analysis, in which case it is amazingly concise. And like a dietary consideration provides reference points for local consideration of nutrition and the variables.

“Samples of student work from Scarsdale and other nations collected through the initiative suggested that differences in performance may be more about style than quality. Also, evidence of critical and creative
thinking seemed to be associated with activities where students collaborated and constructed their own knowledge, demonstrated their learning in authentic settings, and reflected on their own learning.”

“… differences in performance may be more about style than quality…” I would submit that the word ‘style’ is perhaps insufficient for what is being discussed. A style is the result of something(s) preexisting, arguably a nascent method(ology) for being in the world. The method of a youngster attempting to cope with an environment of abuse and consequences of that environment not recognizing collaboration and nurturing is different from one whose environment does. I immediately think of the abusive environment in Ferguson and the writer’s scope of consideration of community.

When I was growing up there was a snide class-oriented attitude toward teachers expressed in “Those who can’t [implying ‘achieve’ in the ego sense], teach”. Over time I have come to appreciate what I can only describe as common qualities of the teachers who made the greatest impressions in my life. Their ‘styles’ varied, but they shared a deep seated respect and overview born of experience both personal and professional, with a capacity to be present with me, to sound out the points of ignorance and confusion, and through them, pace their presentation with my demonstration of understanding. In other words, I was regarded as collaborator in building a vehicle of and for exploration.


Good lord! It takes this author forever to say the same thing that real educators have been saying for decades, even before the Reagan-inspired ‘accountability’ boom.

The essential point to be taken away from this piece is that the Scarsdale school district seems to be doing a great job because of the affluence of their student body.

Here’s a thought. At birth, every child should be given an endowment for his or her education. The amount would have to be something like $250 thousand per child. This money would cover the child’s education and training.

There’d have to be price controls, of course, and we’d probably need to close all of the colleges of education but it could work and it would be cheaper than what we’re doing now.



Good overall analysis of the malaise afflicting our educational system. The current model is purely focused upon producing technologically savvy work units, to ensure American economic competitiveness in the international arena. So they try to force all children into the same little mold, using a dehumanized system of standardization and high stakes testing that has robbed schooling of all its mystery and enjoyment. Meanwhile, if you go to the Dept of Ed website, they use enthusiastic, happy, hyperbolic language to convince themselves and the public that this is actually GOOD for children. Meanwhile, our young people are being robbed of an education that goes beyond getting them ready for a career, but nourishes their intellect, inspires their imaginations, helps them understand the universe within which they exist, and prepares them for a life of exploration, communion with nature, intellectual adventures, and enlightened exchanges with their fellows. It’s beyond tragic.


Our children here in Distractiontonia are the primary battlefield in which the culture wars are fought. Textbook adoption is a major tactical weapon in these wars, as are technology usage and voucher systems. If you have children and love them, see to it that they learn to educate themselves despite their “formal education”, be it public or private in character. Teach them how to walk through this world awakened. No baubles can take the place of such a heritage.


There is a fascinating series of TED Talks on education which asks important questions about the future of education: How are we going to be able to educate the millions of kids (worldwide) that keep flooding our school systems every year and prepare them for a future in the technology era? We definitely need a more enlightened policy. In fact we need to scrap the one we’ve got and start building a new one using these prinicples as a guide, implementing new and innovative ideas, and developing effective systems and strategies that depend less on classrooms and more on teamwork and technology. Mostly we need to recognize that we have moved beyond the Industrial Age when our current system was designed to churn out skilled factory workers, and that our education system remains buried in the past. There’s no amount of reforming this system to meet the needs of students living, and one day working in the technology age. There are dedicated young teachers out there with the will, passion, and skills to innovate. We should let them. It really can’t get much worse than it is now and is likely to greatly improve from their input, as evidenced by the young people in the aforementioned TED Talks.

Of course, it won’t be easy to implement any of these ideas, except in the richest of school districts. There’s a multi-billion dollar industry out there peddling tests, with friends in very high places, and they’re pretty happy with the status quo. It doesn’t matter if students have no applicable skills or are bored to death, because we’re building prisons (faster than schools) and there are only so many jobs to go around, anyway. But rethinking education must be done, for our children’s sake and our own. Sad that every issue comes down to corporate rule.