"Ask an impertinent question, and you're on your way to a pertinent answer." —Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man
As of October 2015, my goal for this blog is to ask 101 impertinent questions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Has the President Thought Out His High-Tech Promise?

In last night's State of the Union Address,  President Obama proposed a program for encouraging schools to prepare students for high-tech jobs. This brought to mind a friend who is a school librarian. She spent the last 15 years building up her library to include a balance of books, computers, and a variety of resources based on the needs of the school’s students and teachers. Recently, her administrators instructed her to get rid of 5,000 books. Then without consulting her, they turned the library into a media center with a coffee bar. My friend says the place now has the look and sound of an arcade. I’m not sure how this will prepare young people for high-tech jobs...unless in our new world it’s enough to be wired from caffeine.

This is probably not what the President has in mind. But if we look at education reform going back to the National Defense Education Act of 1958, we see a history of short-lived reforms that were based on academic fads and political expediency rather than on sound classroom methodologies and the welfare of children. For example, that National Defense Education Act of 1958 was a knee-jerk reaction by Congress to the Soviet's launching of Sputnik. Without any proof, our legislators concluded that the Soviets were first into space because American children were behind in math and science. So they passed the NDEA of 1958 to promote the study of science, math, and engineering. This had the effect of denigrating the arts and humanities and turning those of us in these fields into second-class citizens. This is what began the systematic elimination of these subjects from our school. Today, in many schools, 30,000 years of what what it means to be human have been reduced to occasional electives. 

So we did beat the Soviets in the space and arms races to become the world's sole military and economic superpower. But what was the trade-off? When I take a look at our nation's leaders, I see men and women with degrees from our nation's most prestigious universities. Yet they seem to lack the character, skills, and compassion required to solve our country's problems so that all of our citizens have the equal opportunity promised by our founding documents. We the People do not seem to understand the powers of citizenship well enough to demand better schools for our children and decent health care for all.

George Santayana warned us that those who don't understand history are doomed to repeat it. I invite you to take a few minutes to read up on the National Defense Education Act on my Web site, The Gulliver Initiative and then follow the links at the bottom of the page to discover more about what has turned our education system into a national disgrace. I believe that unless We the People begin to demand better from our local school boards and administrators, our we are never going to learn what we need to know to demand better solutions from our leaders.