A Letter to: In These Times. Sent: 9-14-15 On New Orleans Schools

A Letter to In These Times. Sent: 9-14-15 On New Orleans Schools

Thank you for the informative article on the NO schools. (The Myth of the New Orleans’ Charter School Miracle, IN THESE TIMES, Vol. 39-No. 10, Oct. 2015) I worked in schools, colleges and universities, till retirement, for the past half-century, and the only new factors in American education have been home-schooling, for-profit schools, charter schools, and more funding for “innovation” by private foundations. Unfortunately, they have not succeeding in “turning around” a misunderstood and too-often-maligned American institution–the public school.

The fantasy that American schools were a panacea began with the 20th century educational philosophers whose optimistic views became doctrine in the nation’s teacher-training institutions. These expectations were never fulfilled; nor could they have been in the sprawling, decentralized thousands of local school districts, most of which were underfunded, poorly managed and inadequately staffed.
It is a miracle that they have accomplished as much as they have, and this has been on the backs of millions of dedicated teachers who in most states still work for low pay and poor community support. The AFT and NEA have done as much or more than most unions, but the suppressing power of state and local government and political interference (usually focused on cutting expenditures) have impeded greater progress and thus much improvement. Major city schools have the added burden of dealing with special needs children, immigrant populations and the crushing burden of lack of home support from the working poor and impoverished populations they serve.

I suggest that a more realistic goal for the public schools is to emphasize learning skills for ALL children–whatever it takes–in the first 100 months of life, beginning as early as possible. This puts many more children further along toward “independent” learning; once they have the skills (it of course takes longer for special needs children) they can be helped to learn what they may need and want to become what the public schools were intended for all along–a useful, productive adult.
Once independent–and while still in school, there is a much better chance that they will achieve at least that, and even more that they can become even better than that.

John H. Langer, JD, Ed.D. Retired Federal agency manger, former professor of education, public school administrator, and writer of a number of articles and publications on education, public affairs, substance abuse and social issues. In writing a book on attention and memory as it relates to education, this blog is helping to focus attention n current issues, and hopefully, add something useful as well.

Leave a Comment