Friday, April 25, 2008


A Nation at Risk-Does anyone in National Leadership Really Care? Does the American Public care? Why isn't the Media Raising Questions about Education during this Presidential Election?

During the Reagan administration, Education Secretary T. H. Bell put together a National Commission on Excellence in Education to address “the widespread public perception that something is seriously remiss in our educational system.”

The result of the commission's investigation, A Nation at Risk, reported that--

“The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a nation and as a people. If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

And what has been done to stop that erosion? A nation's true priorities can be easily assessed by determining where it's people and government spend money; by the attention, time, and creative problem solving a people and its leadership give to an issue. By any assessment, our young people and their education is a low priority on our national agenda.

Two recent op/ed pieces comment on the 25th anniversary of A Nation at Risk. The NCBLA does not necessarily agree with either of the essays, but we do encourage you to read and think about them; to email them to your friends, colleagues, and family; to use them as a catalyst for a broader discussion about our young people's, and our nation's future. Have we become so much of a "niche" society that we have forgotten that children, like adults, are integrated, not compartmentalized, beings? Have business interests had too strong a determining hand in shaping American education or not enough? How can we educate parents so that they understand their responsibilities in preparing their children for school, in providing a home atmosphere that values education and is conducive to learning? How can we help parents to help their kids? And in an age when every individual will not only have multiple jobs, but perhaps multiple careers, are we severely limiting our thinking and creatively problem solving because we confine "free" public education to servicing only the needs of citizens ages 5-18?

Edward B. Fiske writes this morning in The New York Times-

"....American education is in turmoil. Most troubling now are the numbers on educational attainment. One reason that the American economy was so dominant throughout the 20th century is that we provided more education to more citizens than other industrialized countries. 'A Nation at Risk' noted with pride that American schools 'now graduate 75 percent of our young people from high school.'

That figure has now dropped to less than 70 percent, and the United States, which used to lead the world in sending high school graduates on to higher education, has declined to fifth in the proportion of young adults who participate in higher education and is 16th out of 27 industrialized countries in the proportion who complete college, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education."

In this week's Washington Post, George Will writes--

"In 1964, SAT scores among college-bound students peaked. In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) codified confidence in the correlation between financial inputs and cognitive outputs in education. But in 1966, the Coleman report, the result of the largest social science project in history, reached a conclusion so "seismic" -- Moynihan's description -- that the government almost refused to publish it.

Released quietly on the Fourth of July weekend, the report concluded that the qualities of the families from which children come to school matter much more than money as predictors of schools' effectiveness. The crucial common denominator of problems of race and class -- fractured families -- would have to be faced."

Again, the NCBLA encourages you to read each essay and form your own opinion, and most importantly, to ACT. Write a letter to the editor in response to these two essays. Write to your congressman or senator and share your opinion, your priorities. Post a comment on a blog. Contact your political party and your presidential candidate. Attend a school committee meeting. VOTE!

Read Mr. Fiske's essay at:

Read Mr. Wills essay at:


Newsweek Magazine must read "Nation at Risk" at:

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