In on-going commentary, Dan and Duane have identified themselves as “New Earth” creationists, who believe the earth is 6000 old. I called this view an anti-science, astonishing, view to hold in 2009. Eric asks, “Do Dan and Duane’s kids need to be fixed by public schools?”, and says, “This is an important issue for a school board candidate.”
According to the principle of local control, a big responsibility of school board members is to set local school policy. In order to set policy, every school board member should have an answer to the question: “What Is The Purpose, The Aim Of Public Education?”
In the example that Eric gives, of a school board pressed to deal with the concerns of “New Earth” parents, I feel, in this matter as in other school matters, policy should flow from a clear understanding of the aim of the system. In answer to Eric’s question, if Dan and Duane were living in Kettering and, if I was pressed as a board member to make “New Earth” policy, my point of view would be that the belief that the earth is 6000 years old is a religious belief.
If Dan and Duane want their children to be indoctrinated into their belief that the earth is 6000 years old, as a board member, I would resist any proposal that would use taxpayer money to finance such an indoctrination. It is not the aim of public education to promote a specific religion, or a specific religious belief.
I wouldn’t need to have a complete understanding of aim to rule on the Dan and Duane issue — I would just need to know what the aim is not. But a good understanding of aim / purpose is crucial in order to make valid planning about the future. It is impossible to make good judgments about the future without a guiding aim / purpose with which to evaluate those judgments. The aim for public education has become lost in the blizzard of state tests that has confused the whole question of school purpose. I write about it in this post: A Great Question: How Can We Tell If a School Is Excellent?
Aim should guide any system — establishing aim / purpose, of course, is a W. Edward Deming principle — and aim should come first. Deming said, “Without an aim, there is no system.” (I can’t imagine a definition of an aim for public education that could justify taxpayer’s money used to accommodate a parent’s view that the earth is 6000 years old.)
The children of Dan and Duane, and all children, in my view, if they attend Kettering Schools, because of their education, hopefully, should gain the skills and experience needed to grow into their potential and gain the skills and practice needed to become thoughtful, active citizens. Our system of public education should be producing leaders, independent thinkers. This should be an aim of the system. It should be producing individuals well grounded in contemporary science, well practiced in the use of democracy, and well prepared with understanding of their world — prepared and inclined to be effective and contributing citizens in a democratic society.
Defining quality, defining aim, is the first step to transforming public education, and defining quality is a community responsibility. Defining quality, defining aim is essential for local control of public education to have any meaning. Scoring well on state tests is only a small part of how quality public education should be defined. A community discussion concerning school purpose, concerning the future of public education, I believe, is a valuable conversation essential to have as part of a school board election process.