Money out the Window?
Please note the question mark. What follows is supposition, not fact.
For years at seven p.m., local CPTV (PBS) has been diligently sharing with us the national concerns of men and women around the world. Judy leads off; Hari (at least for the time being) seconds her. Monday nights are now politics; Thursdays belong to Paul and economics. Tuesday is Science and Miles. There are short essays (IMHO) and brilliant Moments. Fred tells us what’s going on in the subcontinent of India, and Africa. Malcolm brings us up to date from Europe and the Mediterranean. Friday belongs to David and Mark (hurrah!)
And EVERY night belongs to education.
Nearly every single Newshour includes a segment about educational trial and error, about progress and failure, about experiments that promise wonderful results for children and experiments that collapsed under them. We get essays about charter schools versus public schools. We are treated to hours spent with the disabled, the autistic, the savants. We visit trailblazers in Detroit, St. Louis, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. The segments are cooperative, with Kaiser sharing some of the load and St. Olaf’s, St. Mary’s, St. Williams’ (in Minnesota) chipping in, too; not to mention various philanthropic organizations from around the country, or even the world.
We walk dusty paths in India with Fred, we wrinkle our brows as we listen to the earnest concern of Charlayne Hunter-Gault, we’re buoyed by the enthusiasm of young first year teachers and amazed by the sturdiness of teachers in their forties and fifties.
All of whom, and all of this air-time, are devoted to finding ways to improve the abilities of children around the world – in Syria, Brazil, China, South Korea, and Ferguson – to read, think, design, dream.
And, it seems to us, getting nowhere.
When academic rankings are displayed on our screens, the US of A generally falls in middle range – 14th to 17th – in reading, lower slightly in mathematics.
This is old-fashioned reasoning, but we think valid just the same. Year after year Congress insists on giving funds to localities that, after all, are reputed to know their communities and their children best. These cities and towns, these local schoolboards (now heavily politicized) are believed to be better prepared to create curricula for their students than the national government. The very idea of a national educational standard has become anathema to our august lawmakers, as well as to activist parents, teachers, and unions.