To the Editor:
I read with bemused aggravation Gov. Mark R. Warner’s essay on high school reform (“Demanding More of Our High Schools,” Nov. 17, 2004.) Just what we need: another less-than-truly-knowledgeable bureaucratic diatribe about school reform movements “that work.” It is clear from Mr. Warner’s tone and presentation that his reform efforts are little more than self-serving political portfolio-builders.
The truth about the kind of school reforms touted by Gov. Warner is that, for the most part and over the long haul, they will not succeed. Too many children, by the time they shuffle through the doors of our nation’s public high schools, are embittered by and alienated from a system that has failed them from the very start of their fragile lives.
In the decades to come, real school reform might look something like this:
• States and districts begin public schooling for children at 6 months of age.
• Parents of these incipient citizens are “invited” to take classes—offered free of charge and in the evenings, with meals and child care provided—on issues concerning nutrition, health care, reading, and the like.
• Schools per se become resource centers where children spend less time each day. Teachers, instead of spending a majority of time in the classroom, work with children in the field. Teachers work in infant schools (state-funded day-care centers) and in recreation centers and in synagogues and churches, meeting and working with kids and families on their terms and on their turf.
• Parents receive vouchers and financial incentives for keeping television and video games out of the home until children accede to appropriate stages of neurological and social development.
Does this sound absurd and Orwellian? I would argue that the only absurdities we face vis-à-vis our current national school reform “efforts” are the kind proffered by the likes of Gov. Warner. In order for all children to truly have a chance for success, we must entertain the idea of a radical paradigm shift in how we approach education in our communities. Until we do this, the bureaucratic bluster and fist-pounding—like that seen in the governor’s essay—will continue to mean less-than-nothing to the majority of our children.
Middle School Social Studies Teacher
Windsor Junior/Senior High School