September 6, 1995

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Vol. 15, Issue 01
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The American Federation of Teachers thinks it has found the key to boosting confidence in public schools: common sense. This week, the union will launch a national campaign to argue for safe and orderly schools with rigorous academic standards. These conditions, union leaders say, are the only proven prescription for success. They are also what teachers and parents want, polls have found.
The Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies will oversee a partnership formed to promote arts education in the nation's K-12 schools.
Though it's the kind of steamy July day that's more conducive to swimming than studying, the dozen African-American teenagers gathered in a circle at Clio Elementary and Middle School don't seem to mind as they engage in an intense discussion of Hero for Democracy, a biography of Nelson Mandela.
Proponents of educational vouchers have cleverly packaged their proposals in language that makes them sound like irrefutably good policy. Labeling such proposals "choice," for instance, suggests an expansion of options and opportunities that obscures the inequities built into them. Even more powerful than "choice," however, is the common practice of touting vouchers as a new GI Bill of Rights. Former President Bush's federal voucher plan was called a "GI Bill for Children," and advocates of state-level voucher plans invariably use similar language. The association of vouchers with the GI Bill, in fact, has a history that traces to the writing of Milton Friedman, the conservative economist who made the first modern case for vouchers back in the mid-1950's.
So you want to create a charter school? Are you some kind of right-wing ideologue, intent on destroying public school and teachers' unions?
All children enter school as question marks, and leave as periods. It is an old saying but still useful in thinking about how schooling is normally conducted. It is also applicable, in various forms, to other situations and institutions. For example, we might say all nations begin as question marks and end as exclamation points. This must have been the way some Florida patriots were thinking when they made it obligatory for schools to teach that America is superior to all other countries. Someone obviously feels that the American Creed is an exclamation point, a finished product, and a settled issue. But this version of the meaning of America, assuming anyone could actually believe it, leads directly to the kind of blindness that Jacob Bronowski warned against [in The Ascent of Man]. Even worse, it gives dogmatism a bad name.
FOUNDATION SUPPORT: Coverage of specific topics in Education Week is supported in part by grants from the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the CME Group Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, the Noyce Foundation, the Raikes Foundation, the Wallace Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation. The newspaper retains sole editorial control over the content of the articles that are underwritten by the foundations. Additional grants in support of Editorial Projects in Education’s data journalism and video capacity come from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Schott Foundation for Public Education. (Updated 1/1/2017)

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