Saturday, July 3, 2010

Independence and Public Education

As our little community Fourth of July Parade wrapped up today, I began to think about the place of democracy and independence in public education.  In particular, I was thinking about all of this in the context of these words:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. (emphasis added)
Before anyone panics, I'm not saying we should storm the Bastilles of district offices.  I am thinking aloud about what such a declaration as the one above means for our role in public education.  The Founding Fathers did not take this Declaration lightly.  It was no easy vote to break off.  They were unsure of what it would take to establish a sovereign nation from the ground up and they knew it.  But they finally reached the tipping point where they deemed no other course available.

How should all this play out in the public education arena?  What actions need to be taken, not just by teachers or unions, but by parents and students?  At what point do we collectively say that this system which has supposedly been established for our good is no longer serving that purpose, peaceably or otherwise?  There are only so many changes and tweaks we can make on small scales within our individual classrooms or even schools.

Perhaps serious consideration needs to be taken with regard to the large scale at which we are trying to implement standardization.  Another sticking point for the Founders was the notion of being the UNITED States versus a collection of independent states.  Should there be national standards or even state standards?  Should teacher licensing be standardized?  Is it possible to identify a set of standards of any type that should be included in every school everywhere?  Or, as part of our declaration do we assert the need for every local context to determine and design what is best for the community it serves?

I've got no real answers or even suggestions.  Just a bunch of questions.  I hope somebody will ask them with me.

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