Sunday, November 19, 2006

Response to Brad Wharton's editorial: "We can’t cut and run from our public schools"

Brad Wharton at The State opined,
We know we can do education well; just look at the public schools in our affluent suburbs. More relevantly, look at how successful Richland 2 is at educating even the disadvantaged. We must duplicate that kind of success throughout the state, particularly in the most stubborn pockets of resistance — the poor, rural areas.
Is Brad kidding? Here's a response.

Richland 2 is not successful at educating the disadvantaged. They are not even successful are educating the wealthy. There's not a school in Richland 2, or all of Columbia for that matter, that is in top 25 in average SAT scores among high schools in North and South Carolina. Not one.

We’re in denial. Our problem is not just that we have a lot of poor children in this state. Andrew Coulson documented that, "the better educated a SC student’s parents, the further he trails peers nationally."

Saturday I was in a seminar organized by Furman's Richard Riley Institute, and a superintendent of a school district in South Carolina said we need to "implode the current system at its core and start over." This wasn't some radical Republican politician running for office who knows nothing about education. This was a public school district superintendent in the trenches every day trying to educate students. In the room were six other public school teachers and one superintendent, and they all agreed.

Public education is full of wonderful, dedicated people who are working incredibly hard every day to make South Carolina a better place. The system we have is failing them as well as our students. As Bill Gates has observed, "America’s high schools are obsolete... and ruining the lives of millions of Americans every year." Ken Robinson, an expert in creativity from Oxford, noted, "Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip mine the earth for a particular commodity. And for the future it won’t serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principals on which we educate our children."

Brad, it is time to face reality that our current system of public education is not giving our children the education they require and no amount of incremental tweaking will fix it. I know it, I believe in your heart of hearts you know it, and most of all I am certain that educational professionals in this state know it.

It's past time to get on with the hard work of reinventing public education for the 21st century so it is much more innovative and entrepreneurial to meet the needs of the wide diversity of children in the state.

I would love to see you become a leader in doing what needs to be done.

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