Thursday, April 7, 2011

Readin' and Writin'

April 7, 2011

Worcester Telegram and Gazette
20 Franklin Street
PO Box 15012
Worcester, MA 01615-0012

To the Editor:

In response to today’s column by Jackie Reis “Public schools adjusting to enrollment shift” in which my daughter and I were both quoted, I would like to provide some additional comments that could not be made within the confines of the article.

There has been, and always will be in this country, an emotional debate on the relative benefits of independent versus public education. Part of the debate centers around the level of academic rigor in the two types of educational environments. While measuring “academic rigor” is an exceedingly difficult proposition, I do believe that, generally speaking, independent schools provide more academic opportunities than the public system. However, and very importantly, public schools provide many benefits that are not well represented in independent schools. For example, this past year we organized a cooperative program where two Bancroft Seniors benefited from the expertise of the faculty at the Worcester “Voke” to learn about internal combustion engines in a very hands-on fashion, while working with a Senior at WPI to understand the mechanical engineering theory underlying these practical applications. Practical skills, such as Shop and Home Economics have largely been eliminated from many independent (and public) school curricula, and this is an area where we need to reinvest.

The concern I expressed in the article was that society continues to foist upon the public school system many responsibilities that have no business in the schools. Schools are primarily about education, and all school programs should address that goal (even athletic programs should focus more on teaching young people about teamwork and leadership and less on winning). I recognize that some of our young people face difficult social issues, but the proposed solutions for them should not be administered by the schools; doing so invariably results in distractions from their educational mission, which is unfair to the vast majority of students.

Virtually all industrialized countries on the planet are examining their educational systems (which is way overdue in this country: in an increasingly worldwide community we continue to de-emphasize foreign language instruction; in an increasingly technical world, we are falling behind in math and science education; doctors haven’t compounded drugs in 50 years, yet we continue to require organic chemistry for medical students). Our county’s historic success is, in great measure, due to a culture of an educated public that fosters innovation and creativity. The public educational system (itself an innovation when first conceived) is a key pillar of that success, but needs to be more responsive to the changing demands of society.

We are a society, and successful societies depend on the varied contributions of all of its individuals. We should recognize the strengths of all the educational opportunities available to us, and equally, recognize (and celebrate!) that individual students will excel in different environments. We were very fortunate to have found that Bancroft provided the right solution for all of our children, but we are equally happy that our tax dollars support a system that provides the right one for many students.

Thank goodness there’s chocolate and vanilla ice cream.

Chris Palatucci
Worcester, MA

1 comment:

robert said...

Hey Tooch. Well said. I'm glad you pointed out that article, and took the time to clarify your sentiments. I'm not 100% on board with Mike Rowe's "War on Work" idea but at first glance it's easy to see where he's coming from.