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Taking Pride in Our Educational System

Strategies for Saving Our Failing Schools
Les Stein

As we celebrate America's 238th birthday we owe it to ourselves to take time and reflect on why our nation has become such a dominant economic and military power. It certainly did not happen overnight and there is more than enough evidence to show that most of it had to do with the quality of the people that landed on our shores over four hundred years ago. Some of the people that emigrated to the New World left their homes because they were persecuted for their religious/personal beliefs; others simply saw greater opportunities in a far-away land. All of them, however, had two things in common; one was a dream of a better life for themselves and their posterity, and the other was a clear understanding that education was to be valued.

Even before America gained its independence from England, Thomas Jefferson pleaded with Virginia's legislators to authorize schooling at public expense. Although our educational system has evolved significantly since that time, the fundamental premise about the importance of education has not. Unfortunately, our many educational reforms have often been the product of political grandstanding rather than good intentions for improving our school systems. More importantly, we have failed to remain a united nation on the one issue that has the most significant impact on our future.

Today, almost 240 years after we won our independence from England, many Americans are questioning the direction in which our country is headed. In the same vein, many of the same people are also questioning our commitment to education. Is there a connection between our nation's future and the kind of education we will need in order to remain a global power? The answer to this rhetorical question is obvious; unfortunately, we find it difficult to be non-partisan when it comes to education.

The one issue that has no place in politics is education. It is high time that we asked our politicians to put their differences aside for the sake of our children and the future of our great nation. Our teachers are discouraged and losing hope because they realize that whenever a reform movement gains traction, and they begin to implement curriculum changes, some politician has a new and better idea - one that will help her or him get elected to office. This needs to stop - we can no longer afford to play politics with education. The stakes are much too high.

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