As the mail pours in - and it does - it's interesting to see the varying viewpoints of those who burden my desk with their outpourings.
A couple of items caught my eye in the waning days of 1988. One said that to make education work, we must Dump the System. The second said that to make education work, we must Dump the Bureaucrats.I have an idea. As 1989 begins, let's Dump the Pessimism and make some solid progress toward making Utah's education the best in the country. Let's quit pointing fingers and trying to fix blame.
(An interesting observation. Fingers that are pointing are never accomplishing anything else. In general, fingers have to flex to get things done. A fist, in fact, accomplishes some things that don't get done any other way.)
New Years is a time when we typically wipe the slate clean and start over. I'm not so naive, even with a new year upon us, as to think that the various interests within education are going to drop their particular viewpoints and come to a consensus on every possible issue.
However, if they could agree on just one basic concept, it would go a long way toward creating an atmosphere for cooperation and progess.
It's so simple I'm almost embarrassed to put it down in black and white. It's so fundamental, in fact, that anyone involved in education would say it already is in effect. However, the dissension and the counterproductive activity within the field lead me to think that sometimes people forget.
It's this: The public schools of Utah exist to educate children. Any other objective is peripheral and should be secondary.
Legislators appropriate money for children. The State Office of Education exists to develop programs that benefit children. State and district school boards are elected to be advocates and planners for children.
School buildings are constructed to house children while they learn. Superintendents, principals and teachers are trained, paid and trusted to provide a learning atmosphere and facilitate learning for children.
Every decision made relative to education should be tested against a fundamental premise: Is it good for children?
Granted, there's plenty of room for disagreement about what is really good for children. But the question remains a good departure point for any discussion of the topic.
Utah's State Board of Education has been charged with discovering and implementing what is good for children. The board has spent the past year and more developing a strategic plan for the future of education in the state.
The plan makes the educational needs of the individual child the focus for education. The proposal is to prepare an educational program that addresses those particular individual needs and not the general needs of amorphous groups of children.
The plan is to undergo scrutiny in the upcoming months by all those involved in education, as well as the community at large. It deserves careful, thoughtful consideration.
Its successful implementation would require the cooperation of everyone involved in education, from the Legislature to parents and all the stops in between.
If the stated goals of the plan materialize, if the determination is made to create an educational opportunity to fit each individual child, rather than expecting each child to fit an outdated mold, this may be the year education takes a turn for the better in Utah.