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Outstanding Public Schools
When was it decided that public schools were so bad?

My wife and I just returned from a week-long vacation during which we had a chance to visit many family members and friends in the states of Minnesota and North Dakota. In conversations it is interesting how often the topic of public schools was raised. But always it was in the context of how the public schools were failing. It made me begin to wonder, when was it that we all decided that the public schools were so bad?

The fact is that for some three decades there has been a systematic attack on the public schools from the religious right. And that political orientation has become a major influence in the Republican Party. I do not think that people in general realize the degree to which the ideas and programs of the religious right concerning schools has come to dominate the public consciousness, so much so that we may be on the verge of allowing this group to destroy this most important public institution.

At one of the places we visited my wife had reason to visit an elementary school just down the block. It was the first day of school when parents were invited to come to their children's classrooms. My wife returned with glowing reports on how wonderful the classrooms were organized, how alert and happy and welcoming the teachers were, how impressed she was with the whole atmosphere of the school. This random visit to a particular school was completely different from the prevailing public attitudes about schools.

It made me think that probably, in most places, there still are what we should call "outstanding public schools" where teachers are really able and committed, where parents are involved, where real learning takes place. Yes, no doubt, especially in poor neighborhoods, schools are not succeeding as they should and this should be a major concern. But over-all, I wonder, should we not think of the greatness of the public schools and then work to improve them?

The Center for American Progress has launched an initiative on "Renewing Our Schools, Securing Our Future: A Task Force on Public Education for the 21st Century." Take a look at it's report.

A new group The National Mobilization for Great Public Schools is another resource.

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Date Added: 8/27/2004 Date Revised: 8/27/2004 12:15:37 PM

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