Friday, November 25, 2011

America's Founders Speak About Education

One of my hobbies is genealogy – the research of your family history. Once you start, it will capture your mind, heart and soul as you find out the different and interesting facts about your ancestors. To be able to trace back your family lines in the forming of this country, gives you a whole new outlook. This is what actually gave me the basis for the research I do today.

I wish I could take the credit for the research KrisAnne Hall did in her book, "Not A Living Breathing Document: Reclaiming Our Constitution”. In this book she went back to England researching our historical genealogy which actually laid the framework for the work our Founding Fathers did.

Immediately after the founding of our nation, literacy rates in America ranged from 70 percent to virtually 100 percent though most newly-minted citizens were grievously poor by today's standards. During a visit to America in the 1830's, the French political thinker DeTocqueville commented on American education stating,
“In New England every citizen receives the elementary notions of human knowledge; he is taught, moreover, the doctrines and the evidences of his religion, the history of his country and the leading features of the Constitution.”

The Founders of our country believed that the key to a free Republic was a public education for ALL children. Toward that end, free public grammar school should be supplied by every township containing 50 families or more to teach the fundamentals of reading, writing, ciphering, history, geography and Bible study, with control and oversight directed by local school boards.

The intention in the American colonies was to have all children taught the fundamentals so they could go on to become well-informed citizens through their own diligent self-study. No doubt this explains why all of the American Founders were so well read, and usually from the same books, even though a number of them had received a very limited formal education. The fundamentals were sufficient to get them started and thereafter they became remarkably well informed in a variety of areas through self-learning. This was a pattern followed by both Franklin and Washington.

The curriculum upon which students in every grammar school would be formally educated in the above standards comes directly from the dictates in Article 3 of the Northwest Ordinance:
"Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

These three tenets were agreed to be indispensable for one simple reason quoted by John Adams, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

The Founders understood well the words they penned in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…" They knew the rights of men were granted solely by their CREATOR and not a government necessarily composed of men that could take away one another's rights on a whim.

Our Founders’ understanding of European caste systems and their ability to grasp the underpinnings of the French Revolution in real time, allowed them to warn that the only way for the nation to prosper was to have equal protection of "rights", and not allow the government to get involved in trying to provide equal distribution of "things". Samuel Adamssaid they had done everything possible to make the ideas of socialism and communism unconstitutional. "The Utopian schemes of leveling (re-distribution of the wealth) and community of goods (central ownership of the means of production and distribution), are as visionary and impractical as those which vest all property in the Crown. These ideas are arbitrary, despotic, and, in our government, unconstitutional."

So why is American literacy so poor today that we find it necessary to rethink, restructure and reform our current public education system? Unfortunately, since the Federal government decided that it needs to “run” or “manage” the education of our children it has continually gone downhill with a hidden agenda of “controlling” how we think and feel. It wants to educate our children using an institutional format – it has failed!

This agenda did not happen overnight – but it did impress upon the minds of people who wished to control everyone that it could be done – done through the minds of the young.

Fortunately, the Founders’ influence on American education continued in force for nearly 150 years until the rise of Dr. John Dewey in the late nineteenth century.


CA: Santa Clara County friendliest to charter schools

Charter schools, once considered the experimental outliers of public education, are poised to go mainstream in Santa Clara County.

That's due in part to sheer numbers. Eight new charter schools opened this school year, taking in 1,600 students. Last week alone, five charter schools were approved to open next August in the county. But perhaps more important, key places in the county have seen a transformation in attitude, from hostility and suspicion to acceptance and collaboration.

The growing number of charters cements the county's reputation, along with the giant Los Angeles Unified district, as the most charter-friendly place in the state. In a month or so, the county school board will consider approving 20 more charters schools for Rocketship Education. The increase comes amid the widespread growth of charter schools in California. About 7 percent of the state's public school children attend a charter, which are public schools operating independently from local school boards and most of the state Education Code.

This month, two charter school operators whose first schools were rejected several years ago won easy approval from local school boards. Both focus on educating poor and struggling students. Rocketship Education, whose initial charter application was rejected by the San Jose Unified School District in 2006, received unanimous approval from the district to open an elementary charter school next August.

ACE Charter had to apply four times in 2006 and 2007 to get a middle school approved in East San Jose. But on one try, ACE won an OK from the East Side Union High School District to open a school, possibly in San Jose's Mayfair district, next year.

"I'm very appreciative," said Greg Lippman, executive director of ACE and co-founder of one of the first charter schools in the county, Downtown College Prep. "From the get-go, it was very clear the district was going to give us a thoughtful and fair review. They were really focused on the bottom line of student achievement."

In many counties, charter applications are routinely denied, both by local school boards and upon appeal by the county school board. Five years ago, after its denial by San Jose Unified, Rocketship won approval from the Santa Clara County Board of Education for its flagship Rocketship Mateo Sheedy school. This time, the charter operator encountered an entirely different reception to its petition to open what will be its ninth elementary school in the county.

"A lot has happened in five years," said San Jose Unified Assistant Superintendent Jason Willis. "Frankly, they have a track record of success with students we struggle to educate." Rocketship's speciality is low-income students who need a lot of support. Rocketship pointed to its high test scores. And, Willis said, the charter operator provided clearer specifics about its plans.

Rocketship's policy manager, Evan Kohn, said, "We're excited to put together this partnership."

Changes on many sides transformed the reception for Rocketship and ACE. In San Jose Unified, there is a different superintendent, Vincent Matthews, who is a former charter school principal. Its teachers association did not oppose the charter proposal, as unions often do.

In East Side Union, Lippman called his proposal's review "a really positive process." In contrast, when he applied to open ACE Charter middle school, the Alum Rock Union School District turned him down three times, citing an insufficient budget, unsound curriculum and lack of parental support. After ACE won approval upon appeal to the county board of education, the school went on to post the highest gain in test scores -- 127 points on the state's 200-to-1,000 Academic Performance Index -- of any school in the county in 2010.

Now with a changed administration and board in Alum Rock, ACE has collaborated with the district on building a $5.1 million permanent campus, aided with money from the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, on an undeveloped portion of Alum Rock's Cesar Chavez Elementary campus.

"They're allowing us to open a middle school three blocks from an existing middle school. That's leadership from the staff, board of trustees and the principal at Chavez," Lippman said. "They've been an incredibly good partner to ACE. In all areas, things are fundamentally different now in relations with Alum Rock."

And the East Side Union staff recommended approving ACE's high school, Superintendent Dan Moser said. While the district has OK'd six current charters, it hasn't always approved all the applications that have been presented.

As designed under California law, charter schools put local school districts into a conundrum. When judging a charter application, districts may consider the quality of the proposed education program and the financial viability of the school operator, but cannot consider its own financial interests.

Yet the state creates a financial disincentive to approve charter applications. That's because most school districts get state funding based on the number of children who attend, and lose money for every resident who enrolls in a charter. However, district costs don't decrease commensurately with the loss in revenue.

With the County Office of Education working on a "charter compact" between public school and charter operators, officials hope that cooperation and sharing of strategies and practices will increase.

Both ACE and Rocketship believe they can share their successes with districts. "There are lessons to be learned," Willis said, "in how to address student needs and in supporting their families."


Restore elitism to Britain's schools!

Minister takes on education establishment in passionate rallying cry for a return to traditional teaching values

Michael Gove promised an ‘unashamedly elitist’ approach in state schools last night as he vowed to give today’s children the same opportunities as those previously enjoyed by grammar school pupils.

In an extraordinary speech, the Education Secretary vowed to allow the next generation to ‘transcend the circumstances of their birth’ by turning free schools and academies into the latter-day equivalent of grammars.

He said parents were yearning for their children to learn ‘rigorous’ intellectual subjects, for ordered classrooms with strict discipline, and for teachers who are ‘guardians of knowledge and figures of authority’.

Mr Gove insisted that the Government would end Labour’s ‘crude equation’ of traditional subjects with ‘so-called equivalent qualifications’.

‘Countries which award soft qualifications to students, which are not comparable to those in the most rigorous jurisdictions, will suffer just as surely as a country which issues money too promiscuously to pay its debts,’ he warned.

Speaking at Cambridge University, Mr Gove made a broader attack on the coarsening of public debate. He highlighted Tony Blair’s support for Deirdre Rachid in Coronation Street when the character went to jail as an example of ‘patronising’ political classes seeking public approval.

He also suggested he wanted to return responsibility for higher education from Vince Cable’s Business Department to his own, saying Labour had made a mistake by ‘subordinating education to purely economic ends’ when it transferred powers for university policy from the Education Department.

But it is his impassioned celebration of elitism in education that will cause most controversy. For decades, senior politicians have shied away from such language when discussing state schools for fear of upsetting the Left-leaning educational establishment.

There are 164 grammar schools in England, and Mr Gove said there were now 1,400 academies and free schools – a 700 per cent increase on the number created under Labour – which have been freed from local authority control.

‘But 1,400 is not enough,’ he said. ‘And to take reform to the next stage I want to enlist more unashamedly elitist institutions in helping to entrench independence and extend excellence in our state sector.

‘I want universities like Cambridge, and more of our great public schools, to run state schools, free of any Government interference, free to hire whoever they want, pay them whatever they want, teach whatever they want, and demand yet higher standards.’

Mr Gove said that the state would provide the money and set expectations, but leave the delivery of education and the management of day-to-day learning to ‘genuinely independent schools and chains of schools’.

He hailed moves pioneered by some academies to rank every child, every term, based on their performance subject by subject, a process he wants extended nationwide. In decades gone by, many schools used such systems to encourage competition among their pupils.

Mr Gove is also suggesting a return to ‘norm referencing’, which was used between 1963 and 1987 and meant only a fixed percentage of pupils could be awarded top grades.

But he said further, radical steps would be necessary, admitting: ‘We are still not asking enough of our education system, we are not being nearly ambitious enough for our young people.

‘Yes, children are working harder than ever, and yes, I believe young teachers entering the profession are better than ever before. ‘But it is not enough to compare ourselves with the recent past and assume that incremental progress from where we once were is enough. That lack of ambition would have appalled our Victorian ancestors. And it’s certainly not apparent in other nations.’

Mr Gove said the Coalition was reforming the national curriculum so that it focuses on traditional subjects, and reforming GCSEs and A-levels so they can stand comparison with the most rigorous exams in other countries.

He argued that while not all could inherit ‘good looks or great houses’, all of us are ‘heir to the amazing intellectual achievements of our ancestors’. ‘We can all marvel at the genius of Pythagoras, or Wagner, share in the brilliance of Shakespeare or Newton, delve deeper into the mysteries of human nature through Balzac or Pinker,’ he said.

‘I believe that denying any child access to that amazing legacy, that treasure-house of wonder, delight, stimulation and enchantment by failing to educate them to the utmost of their abilities is as great a crime as raiding their parents’ bank accounts – you are stealing from their rightful inheritance, condemning them to a future poorer than they deserve.

‘And I am unapologetic in arguing that all children have a right to the best. Yes, I am romantic in one sense, I suppose. I believe man is born with a thirst for free inquiry and is nearly everywhere held back by chains of low expectation.’

Mr Gove was educated at a state school in Aberdeen, later attending the independent Robert Gordon’s College, to which he won a scholarship. He went on to read English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.


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