Once society valued our public school educational Institution. It prepared our children for the future. Respect of the institution was translated into students and parents who supported high standards and valued behavior that was conducive to learning. This is no longer true. Schools with metal detectors at the entrance, cameras monitoring corridors, security personnel, teaching to the test, administrators micro-managing teachers, union busting, disruptive students, and politicized school systems is the norm.

The privatization of public schools is the direction we are moving. The standardized tests that determine a school's status and whether it will receive funding or require probationary intervention, only measure one or two of the multiple intelligences necessary for success. Certainly our graduates need to be able to communicate with people from diverse cultures, be capable of solving problems, and be technologically proficient. What standardized test reflects success at this? And since none do, schools are forced to focus less time and energy on these skills than on the skills measured by the standardized tests.

Educators who have returned to the classroom in the past decade for an advanced degree know that the teacher is no longer the center of the classroom, and owner of the information. The teacher is a facilitator of information that is readily available through the Internet. Learning must include more than absorbing information; it must reflect using the information in practical ways, ways that standardized tests do not measure. And this does not require a walled-in room, a 45 minute period every day, nor a factory model of teaching to develop life-long learners. The conundrum is what do we do with the Institution, which is outmoded and how do we reshape it to reflect not just the anticipated future, but the present?

Raise your hands if you think the answer lies in creating more charter schools.

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Gary,

*hand raised*, not for charter schools but for systemic changes in education.

...but I'm retiring soon, I'll let you solve those big problems.
Public schools started dying as soon as America stopped having a common culture. Until public schools can act like Charter schools and teach children more than just the interest-group dictated content standards nothing is going to change.

No amount of technology can overcome a lost sense of purpose.
Kev,

Don't want to rain on your parade (well, maybe I do), but when did America stop having a "common culture"? Was it when the settlers came to Jamestown? When the number of Africans exceeded the number of Europeans in some of the southern colonies? When the Irish arrived? The Italians? The Puerto Ricans? The Mexicans? Was it when the Chinese came to work on the railroad and decided not to go home?

When did America have a "common culture"?
I simply want to echo this sentiment: The teacher is no longer the center of the classroom, the owner
of information. How do we evolve within our Public System? That's what I'm interested in exploring.
By common culture I don't mean to imply WASP culture. That is, in fact, the problem. So many people today assume that common culture is a racist, bigoted idea when in reality it has everything to do with class and nothing to do with race. I simply mean an agreed upon set of general cultural values.

I mean things like:
-Education is a good thing for everyone
-Respect is earned through behavior, not violence
-Family matters
-Politeness should be assumed, not earned

These don't have to be racial issues and shouldn't be. If you look at what the Charter schools in Harlem are doing with rebuilding culture it is quite incredible. There was a fantastic article in the LA Times just a few days ago documenting their gains.

So, to answer your question more directly. I'd say the loss of culture began to spike roughly 20 years ago and has exploded in the last 10. I'm fairly sure that will be the lasting legacy of my generation and it is nothing I'm very proud of.

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