27 March 2007

Those Wordy Samuelses Strike Again

My father, Jon Samuels, has recently published an essay at the PublicEducation.org site. In it he draws upon the observations of early America made by Alexis de Tocqueville, who suggested that the new nation's prosperity could be attributed in considerable part to its disdain for class strictures, its support for free movement within the country, and its acceptance of broad public education:
Writing today, de Tocqueville might note the erosion of our public schools and the roles played in that by racism, failed discipline, missing parents, rote teaching and testing gone berserk. But, he would be confident in our defense of public education. He would argue that it was not within the American character to shrink in the face of challenge. He would expect that we would tax ourselves sufficiently to provide for the common educational good.

He would not be surprised when we raised the station of our teachers. He would anticipate our solution of the dropout problem and our reinstitution of discipline and mutual respect in our schools. He would expect that we would use tests surgically to expand an improved curriculum.

He concludes:
I do not support any “choice” that would further impoverish our public school system, that, however unintentional, could result in a few fleeing the problems that affect the many, that could create educational slums to warehouse an overwhelmingly poor and minority population. That would not be the America that enthralled de Tocqueville . . . .

I am sure that those who disagree with me are acting out of the courage of their convictions. I would ask, however, that they also have the courage of the consequences of their convictions.

When it comes to public education concerns, I suspect that there's some daylight between our respective positions, but I respect his willingness, as a board member of Public Education Partners, a local education foundation in Aiken, South Carolina, to tackle difficult issues that have stymied many, many others. After years as a career military officer and a successful businessman, I'm proud that he's brought his considerable skills to bear on a topic of such pressing public concern.

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