Horry County Schools’ Superintendent Cynthia Elsberry envisions the possible elimination of grade 12, end of the traditional grade structure, students learning at their own pace, and school buildings with more open space.
She believes that our current model, a so-called industrialized style assembly line, to be outdated for public education. At the heart of her vision is the transformational computer device and changing role of the teacher. For all of this to happen, Elsberry says state and federal standards must change. In addition, she believes parents must understand that the way they learned is not the best scenario for their children. The superintendent certainly has a right to her beliefs and vision, but who should decide the future of public education?
Should Bill Gates have the most say? Stating that the modern high school was obsolete in 2005, he has been working for its elimination and for a complete overhaul of public education, especially through his efforts with promotion of the Common Core State Standards. No one doubts Gates’ success as an entrepreneur, even without a college degree, but should he have the most influence just because he has a lot of money and clout?
What about David Coleman, the new president of the SAT and chief architect of the Common Core State Standards, should he be a driving force in the transformation of public education? Coleman has never been a teacher and was denied a teaching position in the state of New York, only to go on to form a private company which was hired by Bill Gates to orchestrate the Common Core initiative.
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Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, has certainly had his share of influence. Pushing for the end of local control and for national planning of the economy, Tucker desires the systematic training of an industrial work force from cradle to the grave through our public schools. School-to-work was his baby. Beginning in 1994, his vision is well on its way to reality, a central part of the Common Core initiative. Should we allow this?
The national government, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has been cooperating with corporate America for the last three decades to steal away from local communities the time-honored tradition of local control of public education. Of course, there is a role for the national government to ensure such principles as civil rights, equal protection, and due process for all its citizens, but the nation’s children do not belong to the state. Parents and local communities should have the primary say over the development of their minds.
Public education should not be treated as a business, for it is unlike any other enterprise. The bottom line should never be quantifiable data, numbers, test scores. Standardization of public education is dangerous, for it tends towards uniformity and conformity, the tools of tyranny and control.
A student’s mind should be unleashed. Individuality is what has made this country great, the most creative in world history. Long before we had the modern accountability movement, with its high stakes testing and comparative data, America was creating hopes and dreams. Now, it is creating despair and nightmares.
Rather than let those with power and money shape the future of public education, citizens ought to be engaging in the debate for the heart and soul of what public education ought to be. We should not roll over and accept the assessment of the superintendent or any other influential individual.
If Elsberry’s vision comes true, America will be lost, for public education will become state education, with no more public decision making.
The writer lives in Surfside Beach.