What Is The Aim Of Our System Of Public Education — That Justifies Coercive Taxation?

An “Excellent” school in Ohio is defined as a school where a strong showing of its students demonstrate that they have sufficiently mastered core curricular content, and a school where attendance and graduation rates are high.

If Ohio is to meet its potential, Ohio needs to be guided by a much more profound definition and vision of “excellence” than the one now is place. If every school in Ohio would meet this standard of “Excellence,” Ohio’s system of public education would still be far from what it could and should be.

I like the conclusion reached by a Hewett Foundation study that students need “deeper learning,” that schools must prepare students to:

  • Master core academic content
  • Think critically and solve complex problems
  • Work collaboratively
  • Communicate effectively
  • Learn how to learn (e.g., self-directed learning)

The foundation says: “After months of research and analysis, including more than 100 interviews with top thinkers in the fields of education, business, and public policy. Over the course of our exploration, we found widespread agreement that America’s schools must shift focus dramatically in order to prepare all of our children to succeed.”

To shift focus means to shift how one defines “excellence.”

Education is still under local control and that is why we regularly have school board elections, including this year, 2011. In a vitalized democracy, these elections would serve an important function in the community’s ongoing discussion about its system of public education, as, every two years, candidates and community members would dialogue about how their local schools are doing and about how public education in their community could be improved.

I like the insight of David Matthews of the Kettering Foundation that we need a vitalized democracy — in order for our system of public education to reach its potential.

Any board candidate worthy his or her salt should have an answer to:  What Is The Aim Of Public Education That Justifies Coercive Taxation?

Certainly, the public cannot think the aim is so shallow as Ohio’s Report Card system indicates, and if our democracy had any force, the public, via their local board elections would have a lot of opportunity to reexamine this basic question of system aim.

We pay tax to support a common good and, as I say here, the reason a society seeks to educate its young is based on the reality:  it is in youth that the future of our society rests.  Our motivation for preparing the young is, in part, self serving. Taxes for education should be an investment used to advance America toward “liberty and justice for all.”

Suppose the aim public education is to produce a citizenry with the strength of character, intellect, training and background needed to sustain our national ideals.  Certainly this would involve “deep learning,” and much more. Suppose you had $10,000 per year per student and great facilities to use, the question is: What is the design of the system that could best accomplish such an aim?

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