Unification News for October 1998

Competent Schools

In this article weíre going to take another look at the American educational system. We canít ignore its flaws, but this time weíll concentrate on the good news.

Like the proud ship Titanic, public education is undergoing a slow-motion disaster. Bad news follows it like a shadow, from steadily falling test scores to horrific student massacres. As with the Titanic, this disaster stems from a combination of design flaws, criminal incompetence, and simple carelessness.

Severe flaws were "built in" to the Public school system, beginning with the socialism and Unitarian philosophy of its founders. Many had lived in failed Owenite communes, and concluded that "adults are already too contaminated." They decided to seize the levers of State power, in order to impose their "collective utopian" dogma upon Americaís impressionable children.

They succeeded. The first Public school opened in 1818, in Massachusetts. Today, the true result of their machinations is getting difficult to conceal.

The incompetence reaches from Teacherís Colleges that emphasize trendy, ivory tower "pedagogy" over tried-and-true learning, to classroom teachers who, no matter how awful, are defended by their powerful union, the National Education Association.

Carelessness flows from thousands of "educators" in ever-multiplying Federal, State, County, District, consultant, and affiliated offices-who never set foot in an actual classroom. (While cutting on-site councilors, nurses, maintenance, etc.)

It is compounded by textbook scams. Textbooks are cobbled together by committee, dumbed down by intent, ridiculously expensive, often inaccurate, and made inoffensive to any group. Also, they quickly become obsolete.

Americans know thereís trouble in the schools, and time and again they have opened their pocketbooks, from tax increases to bake sales. But "more money for public education" does not work. It only hastens the disaster.

Fortunately, thatís not the end of the story. Concerned and responsible Americans are taking action. With our free market economy, and in defiance of the NEA, many alternative schools have appeared. This has not gone unnoticed: a huge percentage of Public school teachers now send their own children to private schools!

Alternatives

The oldest private schools are the Academies, military and academic. Theyíve filled a vital role, providing the competent, "elite" leadership that every nation needs to function and progress. However, they serve only a small fraction of Americaís children, usually the wealthy.

Then came the Catholic schools. Founding these was a difficult choice; they became havens from old persecution and new, state-mandated humanism. They are open to all, but few of their students are non-Catholic.

(Personal aside: As a writer, I sometimes regret not having experienced a guilt-ridden childhood, studying under the watchful eye of some astoundingly strict Catholic nun . . . )

Next, the Montessori schools became popular, based upon the teachings of that famous Italian educator. These cater largely to the middle and upper classes, often liberals who are perceptive enough to doubt "the Establishment."

With the infamous sixties came many new private schools. Some were "hippie" schools, who considered even Public schools too conservative. Outrageous by any standard, they broke enough molds to produce some extraordinary graduates. Reflecting the character of their supporters, most drifted apart within a few years.

Christian schools arose, most tied to some large and active congregation. These have strict rules, and continue to flourish. Many fundamentalist parents enroll their teenagers, to assure their education-and, just as much, hoping the kid will meet and marry an equally devout Christian! As one would expect, they frown upon students from divergent backgrounds.

Private schools were also founded in the inner cities, for communities that are "underserved"-to put it mildly. Though their clientele is impoverished, some have succeeded admirably. Most revolve around a single, strong personality or core group. Compared to the need, these schools cannot accept nearly enough students.

Some private schools are extremely narrow in focus, appealing to tiny sections of society, such as Orthodox Jews. While important in maintaining their faith, it has been reported that some rabbinical graduates can quote dozens of obscure medieval scholars, word for word-and cannot locate Canada on a map.

The worst private schools are "deliberately isolated," like the handful operated by White Supremacists (and a few Black and Hispanic imitators). Americaís free society puts up with them, for any suppression would quickly expand to other "controversial" schools . . .

Costs

All private schools must, by their very nature, charge tuition. Everyone pays for the Public schools, even parents who send their kids to private schools anyway.

Activists are trying to correct this imbalance with "vouchers," or limited "opportunity scholarships." These are now the subject of furious debate; by scholars, at the ballot box, and in the courts. The Left claims that the "State" would end up supporting the "Church," while the Right is afraid that such support might lead to government control.

Both public and court opinions are swinging towards some type of voucher system. In places where this support isnít available, philanthropists are stepping in, granting private vouchers to needy students.

Many families (especially large ones) cannot afford private tuition, and "home schooling" has grown dramatically. Hundreds of associations now support these in-home schools, as do specialized publishing houses, legal foundations, etc.

Response

The Public schools have finally begun to respond. At first, only with lofty but meaningless reforms, and now with "Magnet" and "Charter" schools. These schools are freed from bureaucratic rule, and can innovate as best their staffs can devise.

Some areas, like Seattle, are allowing their schools to compete for students, which has resulted in "specialization." Each school now caters to certain needs or ambitions; the main drawback is that the kids end up getting shuffled all over town.

In the worst situations, private companies like Edison are being allowed to take over Public schools completely. Itís a bitter pill for the NEA, but so far the results have been good.

In the face of need, the lines between schools are blurring. Religious schools are leasing empty Public campuses. Both are providing course materials for home schoolers.

The Internet is allowing schools to "go online." In San Jose, California, a group of Christian school students operate a 24-hour radio station, using Real Audio. You can hear them at, http://kvch.valleychristian.net/

This school has a special "teleconferencing" classroom. Students in other schools, at home, and as far away as Africa, attend its classes. Using a $50 computer camera, the teachers can also see their remote students! Better yet, with password protection, that school is making a substantial amount of money from this venture.

Beyond Competence

Private schools normally outdo their Public counterparts. This has been known for a long time:

"In large [nations] public education will always be mediocre, for the same reason that in large kitchens the cooking is usually bad." - F.W. Nietzsche, 1878

Most private schools are going beyond competence to achieve excellence. Still, there are limits. Most enforce strict rules, and hope that an errant student will shape up in hopes of remaining. But, many kids do not realize what a great privilege their parents have afforded them. Thus, private schools usually end up expelling a great many students.

"Educational excellence" sounds like something from a brochure. For good reason: it isnít enough. Simply note that Bill and Hillary Clinton are highly intelligent, well educated people.

Modern civilization has many "internal" plagues. To survive and advance, it will need high moral standards. Schools must bring out the very best in every student, mentally and spiritually.

These arenít just fanciful clichés. The Divine Principle, and its companion the Principle of Education, provide a true basis for education. Theyíre opposite from the ideas espoused by the founders of the Public schools. Our Principles could expand the reach and depth of any private school, and allow the religious ones to "go that extra step."

We ourselves are building real institutions of learning. Dr. Mose Durstís new book, Principled Education, describes the process. It combines our tenets with several years of practical experience at the Principled Academy in California. Other schools are putting these ideas into practice.

Our Unificationist schools may be small now, but then again, so was that first Public school. Thereís hope for America yet!

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