It’s been a long while since DE Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1840’s and came away with a great respect for democracy and a great number of questions about public education. There have been continual criticisms of public education that included religious and political movements, elitists, reactionaries, academics and many others.

In my own lifetime, there have been scads of critics who want to see public education go the way of the dodo bird, or remove the physical placement of children next to each other in a classroom. I can recall the 1955 by Rudolf Flesch, “Why Johnny Can’t Read,” and all of its followers. How about James Conant, President of Harvard and his critique of, “The American High School.” A government sponsored study called “A Nation at Risk,” in 1983 became a focal point for many criticisms of our way of teaching kids.

In our own times, we have had movements to create “public schools” that have fewer strings attached called charter schools. Funny how we would give these schools freedom to do different things, but not our traditional schools. We even have “cyber schools,” which support putting 5 year olds in front of a TV screen to do much of the teaching. The results have not been too laudatory.

Interestingly, these charter and cyber schools are allowed to use public funds, because they are public schools (even if they are run by for profit companies), to advertise through the media. Wonder how many people know that? These “schools” hire lobbyists to make their case for their activities. Some of the most potent hall crawlers have been hired to spread money around for these “educational” companies. You are correct if you think that something is wrong with that.

Certainly public schools put our fliers to their community, have Facebook pages and use email to communicate with parents. The public relations activities of these new entities go way beyond using the USPS to get the word out. One of the owners of a private firm that runs the largest charter school in the state is also the largest contributor to our current governor’s campaign coffers. I guess in this case money does matter.

Recently, I have been involved in a statewide PA campaign that comes out of 4 educational organizations working together. We use mostly retired folks to work with us to do editorial boards, call in shows, public relations pieces, and social media communications. We have actually hired a consultant whose background dovetails with what we are aiming to do.

We have also commissioned surveys to see what people are thinking. It has been a really interesting time for all of us. We now have the data needed to present our case to the public. The criticisms of public education have found their way into so many facets of people’s lives that to fight them off; we need a full blown campaign. Listen to comedians talk about how we should not blame them for their weird behavior. After all, they were educated in public schools.

Take a look at the people who have won Nobel prizes. Do your own research about how international testing is a farce that puts us 25 or 26 in reading and math. Not sure how we compare as a country to Finland, Iceland, Singapore or Shanghai (isn’t that a city). I’ll take Massachusetts anytime.


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