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Reflections on August 22nd
REFLECTIONS August 22nd, 2010

TOPIC: The Decline, Fall, and Potential Resurrection of American Education [K-12]

In 2007 Philip Atkinson, a British researcher, author, and philosopher, wrote about the impact of communal decline upon education, stressing three basic failures of the American Educational system:
1. Failure To Impose Discipline: Clear thinking is the result of disciplined thoughts. If pupils are not forced to discipline their behavior, then they will not discipline their thoughts and so will be unable to think clearly; this is the very opposite of the purpose of education.
2. Failure To Demand Respect For Teachers: If a lesson is to be heeded, the teacher must have the respect of the pupils. In the year 2000 the awed respect that children of my generation (1950s) had for their teachers has been replaced by the opposite. School children no longer fear their teacher, for their erstwhile master is now their servant. The cane has been replaced by the panic button. Teachers no longer command and demand, but amuse and appease. This must undermine the whole purpose of education.
3. Failure To Teach Essential Subjects: The most important lesson for every child is that of learning to read and write, for the use of language is the ability to think. Nonetheless, the education system has abandoned the traditional teaching of reading and writing, with its fixed spelling and grammar, so no longer teaches citizens how to either communicate or think clearly.

Whether or not we agree with all of Mr. Atkinson's charges, I think most of us would agree that the educational system of this nation is not performing like it was when we were in it.



One wonders why that is? How did we become a "Nation at Risk" as we were labeled by numerous academic reports and authorities, including the National Commission on Educational Excellence in 1982?

How have the modern practices of mainstreaming and inclusion impacted the classrooms? Why does there seem to be ever-increasing centralization and costs? Did the "No Child Left Behind" policies impact school performance positively or negatively? How important is the issue of school choice and what seem to be the future options and alternatives?

Is the culture of virtual learning, computers, technology, moving faster than the average teacher can keep up with? Does the existence and success of the Florida Virtual School, which began modestly in 1997 with only 77 students and served more than 71,000 students in 2008-09, light the path for a virtual future in American education, avoiding the burden of buildings and buses, desks and textbooks, unions and boards?

We'll mull over the issue of how education has declined, and wonder aloud about some "what-if scenarios" that we think might make a difference.

Join us at the home of Carol and Steve Tokay, 8905 Garrison Drive, Knoxville, 37931, for food (bring some if you'd like) and conversation. Call 865.691.6816 for directions. Hope to see you there between 4:00 and 6:00pm.


Posted by schadwick
Aug. 21, 2010