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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Gray Matters: Commentary on education

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

With apologies to you readers who are not on-line, I want to thank Bob and Maxine Reed and their son, also Bob, for creating the Marcus Blog.

I loved it from "day one" but I appreciate it even more now that I am no longer living in Cherokee County. The increased postings concerning the school situation are certain proof of the wide interest in those matters.

By the way, my one complaint about the Blog is that so many do not sign their names. Several postings on education have been so good that we would really like to know who to thank for them.

Now to my thoughts on education, for what they're worth. In the first place, the decline of the ranking of the US education system, on a world-wide scale, is grievous. There are so many factors involved that everyone on every level, from federal authorities to local leaders, seems to be at a loss. Over the years it's been felt that the Iowa Department of Education has not functioned as well as it might have in many ways.

For example, our school districts were laid out in horse-and-buggy days. Some modernization, in the form of consolidation and re-organization, has taken place, but it has not gone nearly far enough. The Area Education Districts were a step in the right direction, but only a step. Think how much more effectively funds could have been used if administrative duties had been consolidated. In these days of mass communication and rapid transportation it's almost certain that one good superintendent, with a principal in each of the schools, could have effectively served an entire Area.

Think of the savings that would have effected in both administrative costs and in other ways, such as quantity-purchasing for the area as a whole. No doubt it's too late now, but that's just one example of a lost opportunity.

Many school patrons are totally baffled by the need for so-called "teacher in-service days," which I understand are state-mandated. Even faculty members, themselves, will confess privately that little is accomplished in most of those sessions. It is felt that this is time which could be far more profitably spent with the students in their classrooms.

Most all that I know about classroom activity at the present time is learned from newspaper accounts. If they are accurate, the prevailing teaching philosophy seems to be that everything should be presented as "fun." That is a totally false assumption judging by the results of leading educational systems around the world.

The truth is that learning is work. Students need to strive to succeed and until they are made to understand that, I'm afraid our schools are going to remain at their present disappointing levels on a world-wide scale,

I may not seem to be addressing the local problems with which so many folks are concerned, but until some basic philosophical issues are solved, little can be done to remedy them.

Decreasing student population, reduced funding, and many other concerns should have been faced well before some of the recent building projects were undertaken. It's too late now to rectify those past mistakes. So it's going to take imaginative leadership and fresh ideas to set things right.

My prayers and concern are with all who are involved. I wish you well!

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