Postcript to Notes for a Science of Education

In case you believe there’s something new  (under the sun) about the public’s low opinion of their schools, or that attempts to reform the schools have not been around at least as long as the schools themselves. Well if you do believe it, that what’s happening today is not at least some 200 years old, read this shocking statement from a Wikepedia source on Common School founder, Horace Mann,

“In 1838 Horace Mann targeted the public school and its problems.”

And things have changed so little that one today would not be at all surprised to read in the news that the leaders of both Houses of Congress had “targeted the public school and its problems.”

Shocking because 1838, with the publication of Mann’s Common School Journal, was the moment in time when our public schools had their beginning, the beginning of free and compulsory education for all. So there were problems even before its founding, and there were problems immediately afterwards. And there are still problems. It does sound a bit like,,,  the launch of Obama Care?

For the founder of our public schools, like the rescuer and provider of health care for all, did suddenly appear on the scene much like a knight in shining armor setting out to correct what he perceived as a wrong. But from the beginning the problems encountered were without easy if any solutions. And in fact both “rescuers” were really Don Quixotes, and like the Don, were only masquerading as knights in shining armor, and would probably eventually realize like him that they had taken the wrong path.

Perhaps it’s the nature of government plans and programs that there are inevitably problems from the very start, and in too many instances (farm subsidies, public transportation, immigration, the mail, … and of course the public schools) the problems never seem to go away. But I would readily admit there are exceptions, the clean air and water acts, social security and health care for the deserving elderly, and a myriad of others, and that’s why we keep trying. And that’s what makes us the truly exceptional nation.

 

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