Arizona Republic
August 18, 2007




IF KING OF EDUCATION, HERE'S WHAT I'D DO Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) August 18, 2007
Author: DICK FOREMAN, Special for The Republic Estimated printed pages: 3

Our public education system is one I deeply appreciate and support.

Any change, however, seems to augur fear and loathing on a grand scale. It shouldn't be that way. Here are some things I'd do, if I were king.

Problem 1: The "Three R's"

First of all, what is it with "reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic?" Was this originally supposed to be funny, wise, witty or some pathetic look into the past of agrarian Arizona and America coupled with a bad imitation of gringo ebonics? A curriculum not enriched is a curriculum of boredom, and much more importantly, a lack of preparedness for the real world. Give me art, give me music, give me history, civics and industrial engineering. Give me home economics. Do not give me poor excuses for limiting curriculum because we are afraid of the AIMS test. Enrich curriculum, always.

Problem 2: Community

Sounds kind of silly, expecting our children to become part of our community and doing nothing about it. We talk a great game about how community is so important, but most graduates of our high schools don't have a clue about what a community is, who we are, where we came from and, most tragically, where we are going. Maybe they can pass AIMS tests, but can our kids pass the test of caring about our town?

Is any child ready for the big step up to a career or continuing education that has not had a taste of that most important educational opportunity outside the classroom called real life?

Why not require an outside-the-classroom experience, perhaps interning with the fire or police department, maybe assisting our City Council, maybe working in a county social services area, maybe assisting at a senior citizen center, local business or charity? Why don't we do that?

Problem 3: AIMS doesn't aim high

No, AIMS is not a test that says you're smart or dumb. It's not even a very good test to say you are ready for much of anything except that you can pass minimum expectations to receive a high school diploma. Have you ever taken the AIMS test? Probably not. If you had, you'd be surprised. It's too easy.
People get all caught up with this test, as if it's some obstacle to education. Teaching to AIMS is like getting driver's education in a simulator. Nobody gets hurt, but I'm not all that confident you can drive a real car. The test is not too rigorous. We are too lenient.

Problem 4: Increase language skills

For the life of me, every time someone suggests that public education graduation requirements include more math or foreign language study, people light their hair on fire. Foreign languages, for one thing, provide incredibly valuable insights into the cultures around us. Going through life bound to our native tongue is a limitation, not a point of pride.

Growing suspicions of the world around us, the conspiracies woven around the evils of multiculturalism and the eyes-wide-shut mentality may be the rule for now, but we must somehow stop serving so much vanilla ice cream in a world of so many wonderful flavors.

The rich tapestry of opportunity is not made of beige cloth. I don't know of a better way to prepare our children for that world than learning a foreign language. It should be required for graduation.

Problem 5: Love of country

Patriotism is not overrated. In fact, love of country and community is far too often taken for granted. I seriously doubt that many of us appreciate that we even have a public education system that is truly free.

Is there a reason that many high school graduates do not know the difference between the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence?

Are we out of challenges? Nah. I'm just out of space for this week. I got more stuff. You got game? Please rite and let me know.

Reach Dick Foreman at dickforeman@cox.net.
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Chandler Republic
Page: 39

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Record Number: pho173882845