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         At the recent Victoria City Council meeting -- it was February 23rd -- the principal of the new Chanhassen High School spoke and I took notes.  It’s what I do.  Mr. McMahan spoke of the necessity to change the way education is delivered and to change, in fact, the curriculum itself. 

         The internet and information technology have, indeed, cast a global net over our local communities.  Mr. McMahan didn’t use these words, but I see that whatever is sprayed under that net -- poison or perfume -- is bound to infiltrate all of our lives.

         So I carefully read the lengthy item from School District 112 entitled  “Each Learner Prepared for Success.”  The document was included in the City Council Packet that evening.   It is billed as “The Educational Plan for Learning and Success in the 21st Century.”

         As is my wont, I read the document with a pencil and discerning eye.  When I was finished, it was marked up with underlines and question marks.  I appreciate the work that went into the Plan, but it needs more work.

         I respectfully direct the following questions to School District 112.  Our school taxes and responsibility as citizens allow for nitpicking.  However, my questions pertain to substance and not detail.

         *You speak often of “success” for the future of our children, but you don’t define it.  I believe your definition of success should be stated clearly.  Are you referring to their financial success?  Their academic success?  Success in acquiring particular values or virtue?  All of the above?  Sorry.  Your task is not that comprehensive. 

         *You speak of “honoring individual interests and talent.”  [Page 2]  That sounds good, but I believe we are called instead to honor the individual himself, regardless of his interests, talents, or capabilities.  It is the life of that individual that we honor.  We only recognize and nourish the developing interests and talents of that life.

         *You speak of “creating solutions for unknown problems.”  [Page 3]  That phrase sounds deep and futuristic to the average ear, but in fact it’s nonsense.  The word “solution” implies there is a known problem.  I believe a good education challenges young minds to be analytical and thereby prepared to discover or create solutions when a problem occurs. 

         *You speak of “metacognition.”  [Page 4]  The word itself is as unusual as your use of it and as its definition, which is “to think about how you are thinking; to think about the thinking process.”  I believe we are thinking too much about ourselves and our thinking.  That’s precisely how you get out of touch with reality and each other.

         *You speak of “ethical decision making.”  [Page 4]  I believe we must be very careful about mixing ethics and public education these days.  Ethics deals with the principles of right and wrong.  There are many huge ethical issues upon which our society does not agree:  abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, homosexual lifestyles, cloning -- to name just five.  I believe teachers should be very wary about imposing, directly or indirectly, their ethics or morals on the young minds before them.  Right conduct is written on our hearts but not necessarily in the classrooms of today.

         *You speak of adolescents “preferring real life experiences” rather than abstract thought.  [Page 5]  I believe you should not use such generalities as statement of fact.   In fact, that generality was never true for my adolescence.  I preferred advanced algebra and chemistry formulas.  I preferred the writings of Shakespeare and the diagramming of sentences.  I believe our educational system would improve dramatically if teachers assisted in exercising minds more than matter.  You must review the definition of academics.

         *You speak, throughout the document, of “learners” rather than “students.”  A learner acquires knowledge in any setting.  A student acquires knowledge in a school setting.  I believe the more precise word for your purpose is student.  The facility is an important and costly part of education.

         *You speak often of “forming character.”  [Page 6]  That bothers me because, again, it goes down that ethical road.  I believe public education should concentrate on Mathematics, Science, English, History, and the Classics.  Those are the subjects -- the academics, if you will -- that give students the best education.

         Those are the subjects that determine the success of public education.  Those are the subjects that inform and exercise the mind for continued learning in every other area of life. In those subjects, which are specific and yet broad, results can be measured, and success can be defined rather than surmised.  The internet and new information technology make those subjects more important today than ever before.

         An even better public education will provide opportunity for Music, Art, and Athletics.  I don’t know how there’s any room left for all those other things you write about in the Plan, such as “metacognition.”  Good grief, Charlie Brown.


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