Thursday, January 27, 2011

NCBLA Great American Citizens: George Washington, Education Champion


"Throughout his life, Washington regarded his education as defective. He consciously made up for some of what he did not learn in school through reading and study on his own. Over the years he amassed a large and diverse library, and in his later years he subscribed to several newspapers. He became a skilled and prolific writer. Perhaps as a result of his lack of formal education he strongly believed in the value of a good education and left money in his will for establishing a school in Alexandria, Virginia, as well as for establishing a national university.”

From George Washington’s Letter to School Teacher George Chapman:

Sir: Not until within a few days have I been honor'd with your favor of the 27th. of Septr. 1783,accompanying your treatise on Education.

My sentiments are perfectly in unison with yours sir, that the best means of forming a manly, virtuous and happy people, will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail; and it gives me pleasure to find that Gentlemen of your abilities are devoting their time and attention in pointing out the way. For your lucubrations on this subject which you have been so obliging as to send me, I pray you to accept my thanks, and an expression of the pleasure I felt at the declaration of your intention to devote a further portion of your time in so useful a study.

Of the importance of education our Assemblies, happily, seem fully impressed; they establishing new, and giving further endowments to the old Seminaries of learning, and I persuade myself will leave nothing unessayed to cultivate literature and useful knowledge, for the purpose of qualifying the rising generation for patrons of good government, virtue and happiness.”

From George Washington’s First Annual Message to Congress, January 8, 1790

Nor am I less persuaded, that you will agree with me in opinion, that there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness. In one in which the measures of government receive their impression so immediately from the sense of the community as in ours, it is proportionably essential. To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways: by convincing those who are entrusted with the public administration, that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people; and by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burthens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience, and those resulting from the inevitable exigences of society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness—cherishing the first, avoiding the last; and uniting a speedy but temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws.

Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established; by the institution of a national university; or by any other expedients, will be well worthy of a place in the deliberations of the Legislature.


Current articles and essays of interest to read, contemplate, see if you agree--or not, share, discuss, and then act! Write a letter to the editor of the publication or website, go to you local city, town, and state meetings and find out what is going on in your schools and libraries, see what you can do to help all of our kids! We all need to fight for our kids' future, because it is our future, too!

From George Will's Column in the Washington Post:
Too many American parents, Duncan says, have "cognitive dissonance" concerning primary and secondary schools: They think their children's schools are fine, and that schools that are not fine are irredeemable. This, Duncan says, is a recipe for "stasis" and "insidious paralysis." He attempts to impart motion by puncturing complacency and picturing the payoff from excellence. 

He notes that 75 percent of young Americans would be unable to enlist in the military for reasons physical (usually obesity), moral (criminal records) or academic (no high school diploma). A quarter of all ninth-graders will not graduate in four years. Among the 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, only four (Mexico, Spain, Turkey and New Zealand) have dropout rates higher than America's, whose 15-year-olds ranked 23rd in math and 25th in science in 2006. Canadians that age were more than a school year ahead of their American counterparts; Koreans and Finns were up to two years ahead. Within America, the achievement gaps separating white students from blacks and Hispanics portend (according to a McKinsey & Co. study) "the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession."

From the Political Education of Michelle Rhee by  Ben Smith and Byron Tau on Politico

The group intends, she said, to engage in policy battles around the country and to give allies of a policy platform that involves higher standards and more flexibility for teachers the kind of backup that unions have long provided their foes: money and organization.The first battle is a particularly ugly one. With governments around the country facing deep budget deficits, many will lay off teachers. Rhee would like them to fight union-backed “last in, first out” policies and to fire bad teachers, not new ones. 

Rhee has brushed off concerns about job security, because “seniority layoffs” can mean that good, young teachers are fired; that low-performing schools — with high rates of turnover — lose more teachers; and that districts that could save money by firing a few higher-paid teachers are instead forced to fire more lower-paid ones. “Doing layoffs based on seniority is not helpful to kids — it’s not in the best interest of children,” she said, and she’s been making that case nationally, notably in an op-ed Wednesday with former New York City Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein that described the policy as an “outrage.”

The above painting of George Washington is from an illustration by Bagram Ibatoulline in the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance's award winning publication on American presidents, Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out-- available at your local library or bookstore.

Read more about the book and George Washington at: