A Gutsy Newsletter for Better Citizenship

Year 3, No 25-27-------February, March, April 1996

How To Reform Our Educational System

The Common Sense Movement's Position

Twelve years have passed since the publication of "A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform" by the National Commission on Excellence in Education. The Commission said, "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America t he mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war."

In spite of the existence of some excellent schools and all the efforts of many dedicated teachers, education in the United States has deteriorated further.

The Common Sense Forum has been discussing the proposals presented in Mike Szilagyi's How To Save Our Country: A Nonpartisan Vision for Change for more than two years. We have published two open letters to Governor Symington (and received a personal re sponse from him), organized a Teacher's Forum in 1994, studied discussion materials published by other organizations, interviewed administrators, listened to educators at our meetings, etc. In addition, Professor Szilagyi led a series of discussions with students on this issue as part of his Freshman Colloquium at the University of Arizona.

As a result of these efforts, we present our position on education reform as follows:

  1. We believe that the failure of our educational system is part of our general social decay. It is a failure of society in general and the family in particular. It is the result of the destruction of mainstream American values, the breakdown of t he American community and the fragmentation of our society.

    Education cannot be separated from other components of society. We must drastically change our society's value system to reform education. The reform of our system of values requires the reform of the entire society. We must break the vicious cycle. Drastic reforms must be introduced in the political, governmental and educational systems. We must restore the American family and reintroduce moral education of children.

  2. The goal of education is more than the mastery of specific skills. It is the transmission of values and the accumulated knowledge of society to the next generation. Education is to the benefit of the common good of the general population. It in stills character, integrity, honesty, responsibility, and a value system by which people contribute to their community. The culture of society is transmitted through shared educational experiences.

    Education should enable students to think for themselves, to develop an open mind, to learn common courtesy, to understand the responsibilities of freedom, to resist manipulation and tyranny, to live meaningful lives, and to strive to become et hical and moral citizens.

    Education also provides individuals the opportunity to share the benefits of the society. The competence for work and the consequent economic benefits are learned in educational settings. The educational system must contribute to making individ uals functional, productive workers, able and willing to be self-supporting.

    A major goal of education is to produce responsible citizens, able and willing to participate in the democratic form of government.

    Accordingly, instilling basic values, moral principles, respect, and personal responsibility should be the first priority of our educational system. We understand that the lack of proper values is a general societal problem, but the schools sho uld be instrumental in establishing these precepts. The schools must provide a civilized atmosphere to set an example for families.

  3. A national commitment is needed for the success of real educational reform. Education should be the highest-priority national interest for the following reasons:
  4. Every person who completes elementary school must be competent in reading, writing and arithmetic. Those who graduate from high school must have good command of their own language, history and culture as well as geography, the elements of a second language and other cultures. In addition, they must be able to reason and be scientifically knowledgeable.
  5. The goals outlined above can only be accomplished by the introduction of national standards and mandatory national examinations instituted by a National Board of Education, an elected body of respected educators. Standards should permeate the nation. The more diverse we are, the more we need national standards.
  6. Students must be held accountable. Everybody agrees that a driver's license may be issued only to someone who can drive a car. The same principle should be used in schools. Students should be kept at a certain grade until they demonstrate compe tence at that level.
  7. The value of the high school diploma must be restored. Introduce the "earned diploma:" after twelve years of schooling, students should receive certificates that clearly specify their achieved levels.
  8. The honor of the teacher must be restored. Only the best university graduates should be allowed to teach, and they should be highly rewarded both morally and financially.
  9. Schools must be administered not by bureaucrats but by principals selected from the best active teachers and made personally accountable for the results of the educational process at their schools to an elected State Board of Education that set s standards and policies. The majority of the Board should be composed of educators.
  10. We must eliminate politics from education. School districts, school boards, and the bureaucracy and power structure associated with them, should be abolished. Money should be allocated on a per capita basis; spending should be decided by the sc hools.
  11. Discipline must be introduced in schools. Students who carry weapons to school must be severely disciplined.
  12. The ridiculous practice of suing schools for introducing discipline and standards must be stopped immediately. We must protect our schools from lawsuits.
  13. The length of our school year is based on the agricultural society of the past. All nations that are measurably ahead of us in their students' skills have at least thirty more days in the school year than we have. We should establish the 240-d ay school year.
  14. A drug-free society is more important than privacy. Drug testing must be made mandatory for all students.
  15. Students must be taught the principles that unite our society, "One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
  16. We must encourage the spirit of competition in the classroom. Teach students the pleasure of accomplishment when they perform difficult tasks.
  17. Evaluate schools and teachers on the basis of their students' performance on national examinations. The country needs good public and private schools. Education is not a market. We must educate all children.
  18. The schools must set examples in the proper use of language.
  19. Education should not stop at the high school. Introduce a meaningful adult education system (see lead article in our November 1995 issue). Utilize the free services of churches and synagogues to educate the public.
  20. Trade schools and the apprenticeship system should be introduced for the preparation of blue-collar workers (see lead article in our September 1995 issue).
  21. Introduce special programs with enhanced standards and discipline for kids who want to be winners. Use successful people as role-model teachers.
  22. Our university system should be examined and revised. Universities must demand high academic standards. Faculty should be chosen on the basis of academic accomplishments and personal integrity. The system of "raise funds or perish" must be elim inated. Universities should be run by faculty and students.
  23. The consequences of our failed educational system in business, politics, government, and crime must be widely publicized.

Your comments are welcome!