Public schools have long been the battleground social engineers and the hapless meddling of meddlers.
In Alaska, we need to stop complying with Federal education mandates that don’t make sense in Alaska. For example Bush’s failed No Child Left Behind, or as I call it, No Child Allowed to Excel.
We also need to eliminate the squeamishness that has infiltrated our schools. Prohibit the intolerant Zero Tolerance policies; children should be afforded the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Be honest to students about topics like drugs and sex; kids are smart, who do we think we’re fooling.
Alaska needs to allow teachers to focus on teaching, not testing. Alaskan teachers are great, they, along with involved parents know when and where a child is struggling much faster and more accurately than any standardized test. And they know how to best help that student achieve their maximum potential, whether that potential be limited to expertly driving a bus or designing space vehicles; both of which are worthy and useful work.
There have been recent efforts by some to allow for state education vouchers which could be used for private schools. I do not support the State taking taxes by force and giving it to individuals. Public schools should be controlled at the local level. Let us also recognize that education of our youth benefits all society. So be it, if the State legislature determines that it is in to the maximum benefit of all Alaskans to use State production royalty revenues to fund students for K-12 education, by assigning each student a State benefit of monetary value based on an equitable formula normalized for variations in regional expenses; then the individual student should be able to use that benefit at any accredited school, be it a public school, private school, or home school.
Another debate I hear amongst public school meddlers is a push by some Bible literalists to require creationism to be taught as a required part of the state curriculum. I am completely opposed to this. Creationism is not science, it is philosophy; it can be appropriate to discuss it in the context of a philosophy-related course, such as comparative religion, social studies, and cultural studies. The theory of evolution is currently the best and most accepted theory for the topic it covers, and should be covered in the appropriate science classes.
As with all scientific theories, it is important to discuss the limitations of the theory and the science-based challenges to the theory. For example how Einstein’s theories helped correct the flaws in Newton’s theories; but even his theories have flaws. Darwinism also has flaws and limitations. In proper science, it is especially important to recognize the flaws in theories when we don’t know how to fix them. Also, the academic freedom of teachers to teach is a very important principle in a free society. As the quote goes: “You don’t use science to show that you’re right, you use science to become right.” And: “The history of science is the history of struggle against entrenched error.”
Along those same lines, sex education in Alaskan schools has been a hot bed of activity. Some flirt with abstinence-only policies, while others want to thrust soft-core porn into the faces of elementary students. First the parent, and second the community should determine the appropriate type of sex education; this is something that the State and Federal government should not be involved in. There are two types of sex education: biological changes of puberty and relational complexities. The first is basic human biology which is very important and pertains directly to every student, and should be taught. The other type is philosophy and culturally dependent, and is an individual and local issue.