Friday, October 31, 2014

Thoughts on Public Education

Horace Mann is quoted as saying, “The public school is the greatest discovery made by man.” I don’t know if this is true or not, but I certainly believe public education is vitally important to the history, and future, of mankind.  A plaque in the Library of Congress reads, “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.”  Public education plays a vital role in a community, state, and a nation. The older I grow the more I believe in the importance of public education.  I have witnessed countless people’s lives enhanced by public education. Many people who have disdain for public education owe a debt of gratitude for their education although they do not recognize the impact of their education on their lives.

I have seen people succeed without an education, but I have never heard someone say they wish they had quit school, or had less education. I have heard adults cry while telling a child who is about to quit school that they didn't want them to make the same mistake they made by quitting school. I have witnessed parents beg their child not to quit school, but I have never witnessed a parent tell a child they quit school and were glad.

I have witnessed numerous people have productive and happy lives without a good education. They persevered by hard work, intelligence, and a never quit attitude despite a formal education. I think educators do a disservice and frankly are dishonest if we ever imply that an education guarantees wealth or happiness. There are no guarantees in life, but most civilized societies value an education and most tyrants fear an educated society.

I am not saying that public education is perfect and private schools and/or home schools certainly have their place.  However, in my opinion, in order to effectively educate society as a whole I truly believe in the value of public education. One of the wisest men I have ever known (my grandfather) only finished seventh grade. He quit to work on the family farm and his education served him well for his chosen lifestyle. He gave his first grandson to attend college some great advice as he was going off to college, “Son if you take a smart man and educate him you have a great thing, but if you take a fool and educate him you have an educated fool.” I have never forgotten that advice. Certainly an education will not make one wise but wisdom with knowledge is a powerful combination. 

As a school community we must constantly remind others the importance of public education. We must be our own advocates and we should not expect others to value what we do if we do not tout its value. In my opinion, public education is at a crossroads and without strong voices it could soon become a relic of a bygone time. Like everything, public education has changed through the years and the change has grown increasingly swift in the last few years. Some of the changes are exciting and hold great potential, but we must all work to ensure positive changes for the institution that has such a dramatic impact on something as precious as the lives of our children. 

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