Wayne Sanaghan sent the following letter:

I agree with you in theory. I like a lot of your ideas. But you forgot three things.

1. Money.
2. People
3. Reality

Money--as in how much it would require to have every student in America get some sort of personal tutor to train them in the real world. And how do you select who gets to go to the hospital to learn with the doctors, and who gets to go down the hall and train with the janitor?

People--as in many, will see a problem and say, "Who cares." Some people like the challenge of finding what it takes to remove and replace organs. Others may not like the challenge of figuring out what dissolvent removes gum from the undersides of desks the best, but because they don't want to tackle the harder problems, it's what they're cut out for. Just like regular school, it's the self-motivators who will succeed with your plan.

Reality--as in some problems have no practical purpose in real life. I've spent a lot of years doing math that is purely theoretical. Some of it can't be applied. Reading and writing skills is another example. "Tommie: here's a challenge, write better." Sometimes you can teach the mechanics, but people just can't do it.

Lest you think I'm some elitist snob, I started out a paper boy and janitor during and after high school. As low man on the totem pole, I had bathroom duty. After graduation I got a second job working in a warehouse. A few years of this was more than I could stand, so I got away from that: I joined the Air Force. Talk about cleaning toilets. During and after the Air Force, I put myself through college on the eight year plan (five years full time). I got my four-year electrical engineering degree. I'm not the smartest, but I'm hard working and motivated. I've worked with a lot of people do have brains--but aren't motivated.

My advice: You want to motivate kids? Give them a toilet brush. Tell them this is it for the next fifty years. They'll study.

Remember, too: Education has to be cheaply mass produced. There are problems with today's systems, there's much room for change, and I think some of your ideas could work. But the present system is pretty darn good.

Give education one more break. When you were in grade school, you learned math, science, English, and the social sciences (history, economics, etc.) with a little P.E. to keep you in shape. Now all that is being crowded out by other things: In-depth studies of foreign cultures (which is good-but not at this level) instead of basic world history, religion, huge cross sections of science instead of any focus, ecology (don't throw things away in front of the kids), alternative lifestyles (Daddy, don't eat that meat. It's an animal. I'm a vegetarian. I'm six.), drug education, protect yourself from strangers, etc.

School has also started in depth teaching of things I think parents should be teaching: Sex Ed. Sex is one of the most personal, emotional things two people can share together. That's why parents balk and have some stranger tell their kids about it instead. I agree school should teach basic health, hygiene, and sex education, but parents should be leading the discussions at home first. Unfortunately, they don't. At Dallas Public Schools, kids start dropping out as early as fifth grade to have babies.

Teachers also have to teach discipline. It used to be when kids were younger, they learned discipline at home and good behavior carried over to school. Now they're lucky if they learn any discipline at all.

Teachers aren't teachers any more. They're parents to the children in their class, doctors, pharmacists (distributing Ritalyn and other drugs to kids), discipliners, counselors, etc. Your plan would work great if we all lived in a white, suburban, middle-class world. But we don't.

Finally, yes, I'm white, I'm finally middle-class, I'm moderate, and I think Rush Limbaugh is right sometimes, but he needs to debate Louis Farrakan in front of a mixed audience of the Christian Coalition and the NAACP. Somehwere in the middle we'd get the a workable answer. Now THAT would be worth seeing.


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