Symbols, Turning Points, and Bold Beginnings

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Having plied the nation's highways and byways for half a century, the yellow school bus is being recognized on its golden anniversary as an "icon" of American education. Appropriately so, for it played a central role in two historic social movements.

In an era when the United States was so rural that many parts of the country still did not have electricity, the yellow school bus came to symbolize our national aspiration toward universal education. Later, in the tempestuous days of court-ordered busing, it became a symbol of society's agonizing quest for equal and integrated schools.

The commitment to open the school doors to every child, and the promise (implicit if not explicit) of an education of equal quality for all children, were critical turning points for public education. And, ironically, they have brought the education system to another critical juncture. The awesome challenge now is to provide not only access and equality, but a high-quality education to a student population that brings to the classroom unprecedented economic, social, cultural, and intellectual diversity.

Writing 35 years before the birth of Christ, the Roman poet Virgil exhorted his fellow citizens to "be favorable to bold beginnings." Words to live by for educators and policymakers—especially at a time when there is widespread disenchantment with the status quo. And, indeed, some are following that advice. There are bold ventures under way across the country—in school restructuring, site-based management, cooperative learning, curriculum revision, and teacher empowerment.

Teacher Magazine has been created to monitor and report on such ventures and to serve as a communication network for the teachers who will be leading their schools into the next century.

The lead news story in this first issue, for example, reports on one of the bolder beginnings: the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which this summer released its statement of what every teacher should know and be able to do. And our cover story looks at the beginning of a national movement to expand the role of teachers in charting the future of American education.

Teacher Magazine itself is something of a bold beginning. It is different from any other periodical for teachers. For one thing, it will not treat teachers as just tall children. For another, it is for all teachers, regardless of grade level, or academic specialty, and will address what they have in common rather than what separates them. Teacher Magazine is based on the assumption that teachers are thoughtful, caring professionals who value information and understand the power of ideas. It is not an advocacy publication. Its only biases are that education is a social good, and that competent, committed teachers are the first prerequisite for high-quality education.

As a symbol, the yellow school bus has probably had its day. So, one wonders, what will come to represent our collective strivings in education 50 years from now? The omnipresent apple, recalling as it does an age when teachers were paid with fresh produce, doesn't quite make it as a symbol in the 21st century. Neither does the almost nonexistent little red schoolhouse.

Although a periodical is not a likely symbol, perhaps the creation of Teacher Magazine is, at least in some ways, emblematic of a new national commitment to teaching and learning. That certainly is our hope and our goal.

Vol. 01, Issue 01, Page 7

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