Thursday, May 19, 2005

Vilsack Gets it Right

Yesterday, at a hearing in the House, Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack, blamed Iowa parents for not creating a more academically challenging environment in the state . Those are pretty strong words for an elected official (yeah, but he is term limited), but still very much right.

As much as I, and people like the Ed Trust, talk about the importance of good teachers and principals, ultimately, schools are a reflection of their communities. Communities that believe in achievement, rigor, diversity, and success, will see those qualities show up in their schools. Granted, it may not be easy to get there, and many communities may not be able to conceptualize those terms easily, because of a lack of examples. However, if a community can come up with definitions for those words and others like them, that community is already well on its way to success for its children.

I think too often, people on the left have a very technocratic view of schools, than they otherwise should. We know that participation is important in many aspects of life, but often, we think that if we put some smart people in charge of the school, then everything in the school, for the most part, will take care of itself. But, a liberal education (pardon the metaphor) is a very tender flower, an orchid perhaps. To get the qualities mentioned above, and have them apply to all students, a school has to be nurtured by the whole community at all times. We know that when we ignore school board elections, crap like this happens, but even gentle neglect without the presence of bible thumpers can be bad for many students.

I think I'm getting closer to answering the question about what a perfect highschool (or maybe a whole school system) should look like. Certainly, I think now, one component is has to be the presence of the community in the school(s). I think that will be one of the big concepts that has to change when you move towards educating all children.


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