Our Children Deserve the Best in Education

Each school year, typically in late August or early September, there arrives a new generation of young children entering school for the first time. In fact, there are approximately 3 million fresh new faces in the United States arriving at the schoolhouse door as kindergartners, some holding fast to the hand of one or both of their parents or guardian. At the same time, there are approximately 72 million individuals of all ages, continuing their formal education in both public and private institutions of learning in the United States. There are a wholesome variety of personalities and backgrounds in our schools today as well as an array of learning and teaching styles in schools and institutions of learning.

Many of the educators with whom we have spoken have pointed to the many challenging aspects of teaching today in our schools. One of the many challenges facing teachers is the effective utilization of the many teaching tools and the effective use of the variety of best practices available in the teaching- learning process. Much has been written about the various student leaning styles, teaching styles, testing practices and testing results. Educational accountability is in the forefront. And further, there is a renewed interest and research in teacher preparation, professional practices, certification and licensure requirements and faculty development. Much of the literature speaks to the point that anyone who wishes to teach must never cease to learn. We will have more say on these topics in a future column.

A major statutory requirement in New York State is for educators to assure that all students are diligently educated according to the defined curriculum guidelines and that no child is left behind. Further, it is incumbent on educators, to align educational strategies and content to the established state requirements. Minimally, the stated curriculum serves as the bedrock for what is to be done in our schools; but that, we believe, is only the beginning. From that standpoint, schools should strive to lead and encourage each individual student to become all of that which she or he is capable of becoming. Learning at any level is a liberating experience; it has been said "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." And truly, as we see it, that is the essence of learning.

It is our view that good schools should strive to expand the horizon for EACH learner. As we see it, on the emerging frontier in society ...some of the finest buildings, highways and bridges are yet to be built. And some of our students of today will be tomorrow's builders. Some of the great pictures and masterpieces are yet to be painted and some of our students will paint them. Some of the most needed human services are yet to be provided and developments in science and medicine are yet to be researched and discovered and many of our current young people have the potential to lead in these initiatives. In fact, there will be many yet unidentified and unheard of areas of societal needs, which will be required of today's students to fulfill in the years that lie ahead. We believe that some of the great potential leaders of the future are in our classrooms today. As a point of fact, skills in good leadership and skills in being a good follower are essential in any modern society. There are times when a good leader becomes the follower and where the follower assumes a leadership role. These developmental skills need to be stressed in our schools. There are those out there who will say, "ho hum, this is a lot of fluff, idle words and educational pedagogy." We believe to the contrary; it is STRATEGICALLY BASIC to solid education. We believe that every day in the life of a child is valuable and must be planned for wisely; one cannot recycle a day that is lost in the life of an individual.

We believe that good schools must strive to develop within each individual a mastery of the essential skills and conceptual understandings as identified by the curriculum. A respect for the work ethic must be all encompassing in the academic and extracurricular programs. And further, we need to reinforce within the school life of the learner that identified inappropriate actions and wrong doing carries with it appropriate consequences. There needs to be an emphasis in the educational programs that will generate a desire for continued learning and self-improvement and self-development throughout life and development of a positive self-concept and an appreciation for others in this diverse society. And finally, school must strive to assist each student to find a level of satisfaction in doing and performing to the best of his or her ability in all that she or he undertakes.

Educating our youth is a complex and difficult task that carries with it a heavy burden of responsibility. Our schools have an extremely difficult and complex task in light of economic, legal, and public policy issues. However we, as a responsive public, have an awesome responsibility to make sure that the "best" happens in the educational life of our learners and that our schools are a safe and wholesome place in which to learn and to teach. The schools and the teachers cannot do it alone. It appears, in some situations, that parental responsibility has been neglected and passed off to the schools. It is sad when this is the case. It takes a close harmonious team of the school AND the home to bring out the best within each learner and an informed public to bring out the best within each school. And truly then and only then, we will come closer to achieving the essence of these words "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." And that is the way we see it FROM OUR PERSPECITVE.