Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

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Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Our Education System

Until the 1840s the education system was highly localized and available only to wealthy people.  Reformers wanted all children to gain the benefits of education.  Horace Mann started the publication of the Common School Journal, which took the educational issues to the public.  Reformers argued that schooling could create good citizens, unite society and prevent crime and poverty.

Free public education at the elementary level became available to children by the end of the 19th century.  Massachusetts passed the first compulsory school attendance laws in 1852.  By 1918 all states had passed laws requiring children to attend at least elementary school.

During the 20th century participation in higher education increased.  At first only about 2 percent of our students from the ages of 18 to 24 were enrolled in a college.  By the end of the century more than 60 percent of that age group were enrolled in four and two-year colleges.  By the 1990s, virtually all states have given unprecedented attention to their role in raising education standards. 

The GI Bill of 1944 was the first important federal effort to provide financial aid for military veterans to attend college.  In addition, federal civil rights laws require all schools and colleges to conform to national standards of educational equality.

The federal commitment to improve and finance public schools expanded enormously when Congress passed the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  In those two landmark statutes, Congress addressed for the first time such broad problems as expanding educational opportunity for poor children and improving instruction in pivotal but usually neglected subjects, such as science, mathematics, and foreign languages.

Real opportunity requires everyone get the education and training, that they’ll need to land a good-paying job.  The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and we've been able to increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates, and increase the number of graduates in fields like engineering.  We should be building on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready, and recruit and support effective teachers.

Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that.  Democratic politicians are committed to keep fighting to make that a reality.

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