On Meet The Press today, Newt Gingrich shared what I thought was an excellent description of what students should leave with when they graduate from high school:
GREGORY: Newt Gingrich, what is the knowledge most worth having in 2010 if you are a high school graduate? What do you need to know? What should the end product look like?
REP. GINGRICH: Well, Jefferson said that religion, morality and knowledge being important, we need schools. That’s the Northwest Ordinance. So I’d say the first thing you need to know is about yourself and your own values and your own concerns. The second thing you have to know is a good work ethic and a ability to be honest. And the third thing you have to know is how to learn whatever you’re going to need to be successful.
Now, can he tell us how those qualities are assessed by the standardized tests used to evaluate schools now and would be used to determine the teacher merit-pay he supports?
Larry – A tongue in cheek answer he wasn’t talking about the public school system, he must have been talking about the private schools that all his friend’s kids go to, they don’t have to use standardized tests to show their effectiveness.
But that would be asking politicians to consider teaching a profession and that we are professionals who know what works in our classrooms. A bit of a cynical answer I guess, how many other professions are treated as though the professionals don’t know what they are doing?
I watched Meet the Press today and felt the frustration I usually feel when people get together to discuss education and there are no teachers on the panel. Although NBC did have interviews with other educators like the superintendant of D.C., and Randi Weingarten of the AFT, I still believe that the missing voices are those of teachers, students, and parents.
Gingrich’s reference to religion is interesting. He and his wife are currently promoting a documentary on Christianity and the founding of the United States. In talk shows, he has joined to chorus of voices claiming that US schools have become uniformly hostile to Christianity. So perhaps he’s envisioning a state-administered catechism.
Is this the next plank in the Educational Equality Project platform? A good person to refer to on these issues is First Amendment scholar Charles Haynes. (http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/biography.aspx?name=c_haynes). While Haynes argues that some schools go overboard in avoiding Christian references, others fail in exactly the opposite direction. He generally sees those who scream and yell about public schools’ ostensible hostility towards religion as people who do not understand First Amendment principles.